The story of Bluestone

Novum Structures was approached by the Bluestone project team to build a Serendome for their luxury retreat village. The Resort itself is situated on 500 acres of countryside in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park in Wales. It offers thrill-seeking guests a chance to explore the National Park or involve themselves in any one of the hundreds of adrenaline-boosting activities, such as zip wires and the infamous Blue Lagoon Water Park.

The idea of the Serendome was to create an indoor environment where guests could enjoy nature when the Welsh weather was against them. The UK’s largest ‘umbrella’ structure provided the perfect indoor/outdoor adventure. The dome houses a 400-seat amphitheatre, a skywalk, numerous play areas for children, a food court, and bar area. The Serendome was in its conceptualisation phase when Novum was asked to be involved in a Designer Assist role. Novum was pleased to work alongside the Bluestone team and Holder Mathias Architects to collaborate and engineer their vision.

Having used ETFE on its swimming pool area, Bluestone was keen to use the material again on the immense skylight area of the Serendome. The many benefits of ETFE, including its environmental properties, helped the decision quickly move forward with fabrication by Novum Structures’ sister company, Novum Membranes Germany. ETFE is a transparent and lightweight material which was used in combination with the Novum Architecturally Exposed Steel System for the roof portion of the Serendome. The acoustic properties were also attractive to the team as ETFE foils are acoustically transparent. As a notoriously ‘green’ building material, Bluestone was keen to embrace the ‘back to nature’ feeling and the idea of building with a material that had such a low carbon footprint appealed to the entire project team.

Working with Novum provided Bluestone a one-stop-shop approach for the full engineering, fabrication, and installation of the skylight structure. Novum’s steel fabrication factory in Turkey manufactured the steel, our membrane experts in Germany fabricated the ETFE foils, our UK project team handled the logistics, and Novum’s onsite field team accepting materials for final installation. Bluestone was comforted in their knowledge that Novum Structures could ensure that all elements of the design and build would work together seamlessly. All of the engineering, fabrication, and final installation was handled by Novum’s in-house team; therefore, any replacement items needed were manufactured and delivered to site within rapid time scales.

Although the concept of the Serendome began as an elliptical-shaped canopy, the usage requirements changed as the project quickly progressed. Bluestone realised that a service track needed to be included around the perimeter of the structure for emergency services; therefore, the dome needed to achieve certain dimensions which were not included in the original designs. Working with Novum in a Designer Assist role ensured we were able to adapt and adjust the order as changes were made and the project was updated. The team also greatly benefited from the Price Tracker, which provided the team with accurate and immediate changes to the budget as the project evolved.

Another benefit of working on both the design, fabrication and installation of the Bluestone Serendome was Novum’s onsite expertise. Our installation teams worked closely with the General Contractor to ensure that everyone involved fully understood the logistics and schedules for installation. The project planning on the Serendome was no easy feat. Due to the rural Welsh location, the items were delivered as components to fit on standard-sized lorries rather than larger transportation vehicles. Additionally, the dome itself has no sides, and the wind was a massive consideration during the design process. However, our engineering team worked extremely hard to ensure tolerance precision would brace for any uncertain weather conditions which helped the Novum team predict and discuss any potential installation issues very early on in the design development, meaning they could work on solutions to overcome them before the onsite team joined in on the process.

The transparent structure spans between perimeter columns in an elliptical form, with the major and minor axis approximately 116x77m, all clad with ETFE pillows. The Space Frame is a sparse double layer grid which utilises Novum’s Block Knoten (BK) System on the top chord, and the Kugel Knoten (KK)System on the bottom chord and diagonals. Each component was manufactured offsite, delivered in crates, and assembled on the ground into three-dimensional trusses within the footprint of the structure. These components were then lifted into place with a crane in close proximity to the final location. The ETFE pillows were installed prior to completion of the complete grid, with a total surface area of 7,385m². Two air machines were installed to provide the 3,938m³ of air required to fill and maintain the inflation of the ETFE pillows. This included the pressure monitoring service of key pillows, which determines the status through the life of the structure.

The design, engineering, fabrication, and installation processes benefitted from the in-house semi-automated systems created by Novum for such structures to be realised from the concept model through final onsite installation.

The Novum Facilities Management (NFM) team was contracted by Bluestone for a 24/7 maintenance contract to ensure the ETFE pillows are cleaned regularly and maintained to their utmost performance.

Novum was pleased to be involved with the project early in its conceptualisation phase through to the final installation. Working closely with the Bluestone team on this successful combination of ETFE and spaceframe was a challenging, yet successful endeavour. Since it’s 2018 opening, the Resort has been hugely popular and welcomes guests from all over the UK to enjoy.

View the time-lapse video on our Designer Assist page. (