Case Study: Unicorn Grocery

Case Studies

Unicorn Grocery, one of the UK’s most successful whole food stores, has undergone a major redesign by Manchester-based architecture practice Loop Systems.

The co-operative shop in Chorlton, Manchester has built a new commercial kitchen on the first floor, which has enabled Unicorn to extend their range and make more fresh food on the premises. The whole of the first floor has been clad in sustainably sourced timber from Scotland, and the walls made energy efficient using a number of different Natural Building Technology (NBT) wood fibre systems.

Materials & Risk Analysis

Along with materials, NBT provided a number of technical and specialist support services that proved valuable in completing this project. NBT also supported the project with U-values and condensation risk analysis. Our risk analysis included intensive assessment of the moisture dynamic to avoid moisture accumulation – a major cause of rot and dampness within the timber insulation.


The use of a breathable (vapour open) wall system allowed savings to be made with other elements of the build. The M&E engineers designed a natural ventilation system to control internal humidity, with the breathable fabric contributing to lower humidity levels. A healthy indoor environment was achieved without the energy usage associated with mechanical ventilation.


Acoustic performance was also a priority for the architects, as the building is located on a busy main road. The relatively high density, fibrous structure and microscopic air pockets of Pavatex woodfibre boards are the ideal properties to protect against airborne and impact noise. Denser materials absorb more sound and air pockets attenuate the transfer of noise through the material.

Technical Support

NBT performed all of the calculations needed to ensure the designers were hitting the right targets with our thermal insulations. The contractors were unfamiliar with the products, but NBT provided offsite and onsite support throughout the construction process to ensure they were installed correctly. Overall, NBT offered a high level of responsive analysis and technical support which enabled the designers and the installers to ensure the building was of the highest environmental and energy efficiency standards.

Project Statistics

Internal floor area: 277 msq
U-Values achieved:
Roof U-value – 0.16 W/m2K
Walls U-Value – 0.19 W/m2K on new wall, 0.20 W/m2K on refurbished walls

The overall wall U-value of the refurbishment is 0.29, compared to a building regulations target for renovation of 0.55 for cavity insulation and 0.30 for internal/infill insulation.

Products used in this project…

Pavatherm Plus, Isolair, Diffutherm