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New Build Project of the Year Private Sector

Max Fordham

Brockholes Visitor Centre is a 67-hectare nature reserve in Preston, Lancashire. Located in a designated flood zone, which is ideal for wading birds but a challenge to build on, the Centre is built on a 2,400m² concrete pontoon that floats on a lake.

Throughout design and construction Lancashire Wildlife Trust's ecologist was consulted on its potential impact. Key aspects of the scheme are the open vaulted buildings with no ceilings or wall voids and concealed services, with primary distribution routes following a system of floor trenches with only localised access points.

The shallow plan depths, opening roof-lights and tall space heights work together so that all the main spaces have exceptional daylighting and are naturally ventilated. Shading is carefully designed using a combination of fixed building elements, deciduous vegetation, internal blinds and external awnings that can be retracted in winter allowing the spaces to fully benefit from daylight and passive solar heating.

Heating demand is minimised by using exceptional standards of insulation. The main solid elements are structural insulated panels (SIP), made from A-rated polyurethane insulation and FSC-certified sheet timber. Wherever possible, the design has used bare light sources without diffusers in order to maximise the light output.

The kitchen is an exemplar of low-carbon catering where design-stage carbon emissions analysis led to the inclusion of LPG fuel and a mixed mode ventilation system that can operate without fans when hob cooking is not taking place. Heat is provided by a high-efficiency low NOx emission biomass boiler supplied with wood fuel from locally grown sources.


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