Embracing Bigger, Better, and Greener Wide-Format
Wide-format print has the power to transform the way we see the world. As we navigate our surroundings, a wrapped car becomes an out-of-home advertisement, a construction site becomes a massive art installation, or a dull office wall becomes a vibrant city skyline. Greg Forster, Managing Director of Embrace Building Wraps in Cheltenham, UK, knows all about creating something fantastic out of the functional. The company provides a comprehensive project management, print, installation, maintenance, and removal service for large format scaffold wraps, building wraps and printed graphics for site hoardings.
With a background in out of home media, Forster founded Embrace Building Wraps in 2006 with a desire to reimagine the process of bringing large-format advertising to life. “I thought, why not try looking at it a different way by dealing directly with the developers and the tier one main contractors, so that's how it all came into place,” says Forster. The company offers a ‘one-stop shop’ solution across the entire project management process, from creative execution to, increasingly, the repurposing of the materials used once the project is complete. The specialist areas for Embrace are scaffolding building wraps, self-adhesive building wraps, and printed aluminum composite panels (ACM) for the cladding of hoardings.
Embrace Building Wraps is certainly taking the impact of wide-format to new heights. A recent project saw the company undertake the world’s largest scaffold wrap at Selfridge’s department store in Birmingham, UK. Sporting an eye-catching design comprising of interlocking 20-foot diameter dog tooth flowers in three contrasting colors, created by Birmingham-born designer Osman Yousefzada, the wrap measures almost 9,000 sqm and weighs just under five tons, and is 58% larger than the currently recognized Guinness World Record holder for the largest scaffold banner.
It goes without saying that a project of this magnitude requires a great deal of planning and expertise. Complex engineering wind load calculations were required to ensure the install works with the structural integrity of the main access scaffold, and the scaffolding was erected and handed over by the scaffolding contractor to the Embrace team in sections, allowing Embrace’s experts to install separate panels that seamlessly connect with the creative design.
“In total the Embrace Building Wraps team installed 5,888 linear meters of scaffold tubes in Birmingham for the banner frames, vertical curved shaping, and buffer rails, which if laid end to end the scaffold tubes would extend around four miles,” says Forster. The team seamlessly joined twenty-four individual banners to create the digitally printed wrap. “If you have ever tried lining up wallpaper then this is supersized to another level,” he adds.
As well as creating a beautiful artistic installation, the frames and wrap are concealing renovation that began on-site at the end of 2020. This smart use of super wide-format print is on the rise, according to Forster, who explains: “People like to be considerate contractors or developers, and rather than leaving your scaffold exposed and open to the elements, it's much nicer to encapsulate it to keep all the dust and dirt inside, while also using it as an effective marketing tool as people walk past. We are getting more and more inquiries coming through with regards to building wraps and scaffold wraps.”
Adding a Layer of Sustainability
Another notable project from Embrace Building Wraps is Sandhurst Block in Hampshire, UK, thought to be the UK’s largest outdoor art installation. Formerly an army battalion building, the site is part of significant development and regeneration in the local area, so colorful designs celebrating community, nature, and future generations struck the perfect note for the setting. An open call for designers saw architect and designer Shiraaz Ali create a green ‘living wall’ fitted between two giant building wraps. The two wings of the building are wrapped, and printed site hoardings encompass the site’s perimeter creating a ‘secret garden’ effect. Embrace also printed and installed panels in 54 specific window locations featuring unique designs created by the local community.
“We were first approached about this exciting project back in October last year,” Forster explains. “From the initial brief we were keen to get on board with the client on a community project like this and having seen the creative designs we could visualize the install as it is today. The colors really pop out from the red brick behind. The creative is exceptional – when you look at it, you stand back and you can take in the sheer scale of the project, and it's just awesome. When you see it in front of you, it makes such a big statement, it’s a real experience.”
The project’s celebration of the natural world tied in with the environmentally-friendly alternative to PVC that was used to create the Sandhurst Block banners. KAVALAN’s PVC-free product range was used in the central zone to the front of the building for the ten 18 sqm and two 12 sqm PVC-free wraps, attached using Keder rails. On the left and right wings of the building, Embrace fitted bespoke wire frames accommodating two of the UK’s largest digitally printed PVC-free building wraps, also using KAVALAN, which measure 400 sqm each. The wire mesh system used 84 brackets to push the banner away from drainpipes, which alone used 100 eyebolts, 250m of wire, and 1,000 sqm of the printed PVC-free substrate.
Forster explains: “We were the only organization to go in there and say, we can offer you a PVC-free product, which paid dividends because it helped us secure the project. It’s something that’s becoming increasingly important to our clients. Anybody with a sense of responsibility should realize that if there is an alternative material that performs the same, if not better, and leaves a smaller footprint, then that’s a great option.”
Sustainability and environmental responsibility are commitments that Embrace Building Wraps takes seriously. The company installed the UK’s first PVC-free printed scaffold wrap in Belgravia, London, again using a KAVALAN PVC-free product, and it is company policy to make an additional investment into worldwide projects working to remove CO2 emissions from the atmosphere. The printed substrate used for the Selfridge’s dogtooth wrap will be repurposed at the end of its display period, and Embrace has also celebrated the achievement by increasing the size of its global forest to match the same area, planting 6,000 trees in Marotoala, Madagascar.
Embrace also launched its ‘Banner Karma’ initiative in 2017, dedicated to upcycling used PVC banners. Forster says: “We just try to think of ways to keep the materials useful. It’s all very well for a wrap to spent 12 months or two years of its life on a site in the middle of the West End of London, but at the end of it let's make sure we can make use of it. We use them in a positive way by either working with farmers, agricultural specialists, groundworks engineers, and any other industry that can find a way of repurposing the materials.” On top of its sustainability commitments, Embrace takes on additional socially-responsible projects, such as supporting MacMillan Cancer Support by sponsoring a number of MacMillan nurses, and backing Crisis UK, a charity working to end homelessness.
Looking ahead, Forster, is always keeping his eyes on what’s out there, and doing his research on new innovations. “Bit by bit we find more technologies and applications coming to the fore. We try to think outside the box and work closely with our clients to help develop their businesses with our outstanding building wrap and site hoarding services,” he concludes.
Karis Copp is a U.K.-based journalist and communications specialist. With a background as a writer and editor in the print industry, she writes about print and technology news and trends, reports on industry events, and works with businesses to help them tell their stories and connect with their customers. Follow her on Twitter @KarisCoppMedia.