Building for a growing sector: Scorpion Buildings

Scorpion Buildings has delivered a number of storage, processing and bottling plant buildings for vineyards and wineries, both established and new, including Chapel Down Vineyards, the Bolney Wine Estate, Nyetimber, Biddenden Vineyards, Ridgeview Wine Estate and most recently the Rathfinny Estate to name a few.

Scorpion Buildings has been established for over 40 years, delivering turnkey projects to the agricultural sector. From grain and crop stores, to livestock and equestrian sheds; cold-stores, distribution and processing buildings for fruit and vegetable growers; and now buildings for vineyards and wineries.

During this time the firm has grown and in 2015 the merger of Scorpion Engineering Construction and D + D Construction brought over 85 years’ shared experience in the agricultural buildings construction industry under one roof.

When a project demands it, Scorpion Buildings work in close partnership with architects and consultants from the initial planning and concept stage, ensuring a turnkey solution is delivered to the client’s satisfaction.

Bespoke offering for vineyards

From its head office in Marlborough and newly opened South East office in Lewes, Scorpion are able to offer fully integrated turnkey services nationwide.

To meet the demands of the growing viticulture sector Scorpion Buildings has developed a bespoke offering for the vineyard sector. “The turnkey solution we have adopted for the major Rathfinny project, in particular, has demonstrated the need for a coordinated approach requiring technical expertise not only in construction but in planning, selection of machinery and storage,” said Andre van Heerden, managing director of Scorpion. The company has developed a strong partnership with specialists supplying equipment to the industry as well as with those who provide the associated infrastructure. “The logistical challenge of designing buildings to accommodate the equipment required for the modern viticulture complex has been met by Scorpion already on a number of existing projects; the largest and most complex being the Rathfinny project due to be completed by the middle of 2018,” said Andre.

Estates and farmers still keen to invest

Despite looming uncertainties relating to Brexit and agricultural subsidies Scorpion Buildings have seen that estates and farmers are still keen to invest in construction in the South East.

For some, vineyards are a diversification of an existing business and in other circumstances they are new entrants to the sector. “In either case with Scorpion Buildings’ specialised knowledge and the skilled team we are able to assist landowners from concept to operation,” said Andre van Heerden.

Quality brings customers back

Follow up servicing and dedicated after care has ensured that many customers return for smaller long-term maintenance works, such as recladding or new roofing.

A combination of providing good support after the project is finished, with a developed understanding of customers’ requirements, a hands-on approach and a drive to complete zero-issue projects has contributed to the high levels of repeat business enjoyed over the years.

With around 60% of current business originating from previous customers, the consistently high level of construction quality has also brought back customers who have tried other brands with limited success.

“A few weeks ago, I went to see a customer who has two Scorpion buildings and the third building, the newest, was from another firm,” said Andre van Heerden. “The customer approached us to construct a fourth building for them because although the other firm was cheaper, the building which is three years old, looks the same as ours which were erected 15 years ago.”

Case studies
Rathfinny Estate

Scorpion Buildings secured the contract for phase two and three of the Rathfinny Estate in Alfriston, East Sussex and the team are now halfway through construction.

The project is part of the ongoing development of the estate by the owners Mark and Sarah Driver with the support of Scorpion Buildings. While Mark and Sarah did not start out in agriculture and vineyards, they first got the

idea after visiting New Zealand in 1990.

Having gained a passion and dream of owning a vineyard and producing their own wine, they established the vineyard in 2010.

Mark and Sarah’s key focus is to produce high quality wines in a sustainable way.

Taking care of the landscape and environment is crucial to the quality of the end product. They source water from their own boreholes on the estate, employ local labour, treat waste on site and return it to the land, and power
the production plant from a solar array with any excess power being exported to the grid.

Aspiring to make world class sparkling wines from a perfect site in Sussex, Rathfinny have (so far) experienced encouraging harvests across 2015, 2016 and 2017.

“We think that quality comes in increments and you need to focus on every single detail to ensure you produce the highest quality wines,” said Mark Driver. “We searched out the best clones of Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Meunier; we recruited a great vineyard manager and winemaker; and I even went back to college and studied for a degree in wine making.”

Phase two of the project, increasing the winery capacity to over a million bottles, was carefully planned and constructed to blend into the local scenery.  

“We worked closely with the planners and the South Downs park authority who gave constructive feedback,” said Mark. “Locating the new facility on the site of our existing structure, setting the new building back into the hillside, with bunding in front, and choosing the right colour for the exterior has greatly reduced any impact on the local landscape.”

After visiting another project that Scorpion Buildings had delivered, Mark was impressed with the quality and consequently Scorpion Buildings was selected for the building and infrastructure.

£5 million investment

The project at Rathfinny estate is a circa £5 million investment including the buildings, specialist plant and infrastructure, consisting of two new buildings with a footprint of over 54,000 square feet.

The phase two building will house the bottling, labelling and disgorging process lines, being fed directly from the tanks of the phase one building. Phase three building is the storage building for distribution.

“The project is progressing well and on track for completion, including fit-out, early in 2018 ahead of commencing installation of the specialist process and handling equipment,” said Kim Fernandes, regional and project manager of Scorpion.

Mark Driver confirmed that on the basis of all going to plan the plant will be commissioned and handed over to the estate in the middle of 2018.

“We’ve been very satisfied with Scorpion so far,” said Mark Driver. “Building is not an exact science, things change as a project develops and Scorpion have been flexible in their approach, delivering a very fine set of buildings. I’ve been particularly impressed with the ground workers team, as the aesthetics and landscaping is very important to us.”

Biddenden Vineyards

Scorpion Buildings has delivered two buildings to Biddenden Vineyards, including the new pack house and another agricultural building.

The vineyard was originally home to a 40 acre apple orchard, but the Barnes family started to consider diversifying the farm in the late 1960s as apple prices began to decline and the first vineyard was established in 1969. Biddenden prides itself on being a family run vineyard with the second and third generation of the Barnes family managing the estate.

Julian Barnes, owner said they required the buildings as “the increased storage space would reduce transport costs and unit prices and thus improve the performance of the drinks business”.

Julian added that they chose Scorpion Buildings for the pack house and agricultural building because “a number of other wineries have Scorpion buildings and as such came recommended.” He added that while the vineyard took care of the site preparation and landscaping, Scorpion Buildings provided a turnkey solution, managing the design, planning permission, building frame and envelope as well as specialist suppliers such as for the roller door.

Biddenden were pleased with Scorpion’s performance as it took away a lot of hassle with the whole project being well managed. The building is highly insulated so as to control the internal atmosphere, and Julian said that “this has worked well and continues to perform for the safe storage of wine, cider and juice we produce”.

“Scorpion Buildings were pleased to be associated in the delivery of a key infrastructure supporting the growth of a vineyard that was one of the first in Kent to produce English sparkling wines,” said Andre van Heerden.

Nyetimber

At the Nyetimber Vineyard Scorpion Buildings have completed three projects in 2006, 2008 & 2009 including a replacement workshop building. With their expertise and industry knowledge Scorpion has helped to support the growth of a vineyard which has been producing English sparkling wine for over twenty five years on an established estate which is even mentioned in the doomsday book.

Eric Heerema, owner at Nyetimber, who has had an interest in wine since he was 17, explained that “the need for renewing and putting in new infrastructure was required to support production of a high quality wine.”

The Bolney Wine Estate

Originally started in 1972 as Bookers Vineyard the business expanded to 39 acres to include the Bolney Wine Estate that was established in the 18th century.

Scorpion Buildings secured the contract to build the new winery for the estate. When Sam Linter, owner and managing director, required further space for the disgorging and bottling plant, Scorpion Buildings were the natural choice due to the high level of quality for the winery they provided. The building was subsequently fitted out by a specialist supplier to include a café.

“In 2005 Scorpion built the winery building at Bolney Wine Estate, which is 420 square meters,” said Sam Linter. “We found them very professional, prior to the building work the advice and planning was really helpful and inspiring. Once the building work commenced, a project manager was always on site, the site was clean and tidy. We were very impressed with the work. We would highly recommend Scorpion to any businesses thinking about using them.’’

A key aim of the Bolney Estate is to maintain wine production that is economically viable and sustainable in a way that minimises the use of agricultural chemicals and fertilisers, with the aim of protecting workers and the environment.

As part of this they aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, by recycling CO2 in the winery where possible as well as managing water and energy use efficiently, reducing and recycling waste as much as possible.

Ridgeview Wine Estate

Conceived in 1995 by Mike and Chris Roberts, Ridgeview now produces over a quarter of a million bottles and it is sold across the world. Managed by Tamara Roberts and her brother, Simon Roberts who is head winemaker, Ridgeview appointed Scorpion Buildings to support the estate with the provision of the bottling plant, storage and offices.

“In 2011 we engaged Scorpion to construct an annex to our existing winery to house an additional sparkling wine press as part of our on-going expansion of production,” said Tamara Roberts, CEO of Ridgeview. “It was a small but relatively complicated project due to it being an extension to our existing facilities, requiring diversion of our existing drainage system that was built in 1998 when the original build took place. Scorpion were incredibly efficient and delivered the project in a cost-effective way ensuring they worked around our on-going production requirements during the build. We are now processing over 50% more grapes at the winery than we were in 2011 and expect this to double by 2020.”

Chapel Down

At the Chapel Down Vineyard, D + D Construction who are now merged as part of Scorpion Buildings provided a general storage building in 2007. With the merger of the two companies this expands and strengthens the depth of experience and knowledge within the vineyard and winery sector. Again Scorpion are proud to have supported the requirements and infrastructure required to support the growth of the business established in 2001.

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