Stanwick Lakes Visitor Centre, Northamptonshire

Stanwick Lakes Visitor Centre, Northamptonshire

Client: Rockingham Forest Trust
Architect: Laurie Wood Architect
Contractor: Strandor Roofing
Type of works: supply of SSQ Ultra Del Carmen® Blue/Black roofing slates.

“Our new visitor centre at Stanwick Lakes is incredibly popular with visitors and the local community.” said Alyson Allfree, Director of Rockingham Forest Trust. “And we love the swooping roof – it’s smart, durable and fits well with its surroundings.”

Originally a 600-acre gravel quarry, the area has been restored back to nature and is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest managed by Rockingham Forest Trust. It’s become Northamptonshire’s most imaginative outdoor activity destination and offers something for everyone: abundant wildlife, adventure trails, picnic areas, cycling, fishing – and, now, cutting edge eco-architecture.

Designed by Laurie Wood Architects, the construction of the park’s stunning visitor centre embraces the key principles of environmental sustainability and is designed to be low energy and carbon neutral. In fact its very location, perched on the edge of one the larger lakes, isn’t just to give visitors a better view of the ducks – the building uses the lake as its prime source of energy.

Following recommendations from The Energy Practice [M&E Engineers] a heat-transfer system was installed to extract heat from the water in the lake which, apart from providing warmth, can also be used in reverse to provide cooling. The building’s other energy-related needs are provided by an array of solar panels and a 20kW wind turbine is to be installed to generate electricity.

The building’s construction follows best practice to ensure that it’s both truly sustainable in terms of the materials used and works holistically to minimise energy use and features a timber structure; curtain walling with integral ‘brise soleil’ solar shading; ceramic tile flooring; low-e glazing and a green roof over the offices. But, despite all these very worthy things, visitors can be perhaps be forgiven for being most impressed by the visual impact of the centre’s dramatic, swooping roof.

“We’ve had experience of laying curved, slate roofs in the past but, even so, this one was a real challenge,” said Strandor Roofing’s Richard Threadgold. “Apart from the surface being concave, the verges are different lengths [11 and 7m] and diverge, we were asked to use a 200mm wide slate for the eaves, a mixture of different slate widths and had to finish with a single, 500 x 375mm slate at the roof’s apex! We knew that careful planning, accurate setting out and hook fixing were going to be essential and they really paid off. And we’d like to thank SSQ for being so helpful in letting us exchange slates for the sizes we needed.”

Alyson’s roof offers a perfect example of natural slate’s versatility.

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