Cornwall, UK

The Heartlands project was born out of a community regeneration initiative instigated by Kerrier Council, now a part of the unitary Cornwall Council.

The initiative proposed to develop the dilapidated Robinsons Shaft tin mine and the surrounding 7.5 ha of land into a thriving arts and residential centre for Pool, as the focal point of a wider local regeneration in partnership with the HCA.

A community led lottery bid secured funding of £22.5 million in November 2007 from the BIG Lottery fund. This was the largest of the four awards made under their Living Landmarks Scheme and the largest single award in the history of the Lottery.

Incorporating a mix of new build and restoration of the existing Grade 2* listed mine buildings, the Heartlands development provides a mix of two and three bed apartments, community housing, retail/workshop units, seminar facilities, a community hall, a café/restaurant and bar. The development also features a new visitor attraction which presents the experience of being a miner in a traditional Cornish tin-mining community.

Working as part of an integrated design team Buro Happold drove the incorporation of the sustainable aspirations that were intrinsic in the lottery bid document and provided full building services engineering design across the site. We also led the development and implementation of the fire strategy. Additionally, our experts provided a number of specialist services to support the development. These included water feature design, acoustic assessments in connection with possible future mining operations, and restoration advice / services for the pumping beam engine and other as found artefacts.


The challenge lay in delivering the stated project aims and sustainability targets through the provision of simple, low-carbon engineering solutions sympathetic to the listed nature of some of the buildings while remaining conscious of local planning requirements and the impact on the surrounding area, all within the context of a World Heritage site.

The wide variance of uses across the site posed particular challenges in relation to the load profiles for base energy, while the unexpected weight of local opinion against the provision of wind-powered electricity generation on site provided the single biggest challenge to the zero-carbon aspirations of the original brief and lottery bid.

The finite budget further challenged the design to ensure every decision was value based.

The challenge lay in providing simple, low carbon solutions that were sympathetic to the listed buildings and also in keeping with local planning requirements. Image: Buro Happold


Our team’s approach to the project focused on the early development of a bespoke sustainability framework, aligned with the requirements of the South West Sustainability Checklist, and taking account of wider considerations than, say, energy and capital costs only. Through the development of the Sustainability Framework we obtained the buy-in of all the project stakeholders; funders, council representatives, exhibition designers, fellow design team members, adjacent development partners and others. This sustainability framework formed the backbone of the developing design throughout the process of project delivery as a basis for evaluating each decision.

Within the confines of the Sustainability Framework our experts developed a Sustainability Strategy challenging energy use against benchmarked data and targeting improvements wherever possible. Having set these targets, detailed analysis of the predicted energy use across the site allowed options for renewable energy sources to be evaluated using annual consumption and yield to give an accurate picture of payback periods, income generation and running costs. This allowed us to recommend the most appropriate mix of technologies for the site both in terms of achieving the lowest possible carbon emissions and in supporting the ongoing business plan, ensuring the development will be sustainable in the long term.

A central biomass heating boiler is located in the Compressor House –  which would have originally provided the compressed air used to power the pit lifts and for mining operations below ground – provides heat energy across the site through a district heating network. This is sized to be able to support the planned Phase 2 development of adjacent commercial space also. Photovoltaic arrays have been installed on all the south facing new build roofs, whilst surface water drainage from the roof and hardscape areas is conveyed to two 90,000 litre storage tanks located in the old compressor house pool. Rainwater stored in the tanks is used across the site for irrigation and for toilet flushing. To complete the renewable solutions a wind turbine is provided and is connected back to the grid, along with the PV installations, for export of any electricity generated in excess of the site needs.

Additional insulation was added to the listed buildings wherever possible and insulation levels in all the new build areas were targeted to be 25% better than the building regulations stipulation.

A particular challenge through the design process was the sizing and selection of the essential wind turbine. However unease from the heritage planners – who did not want a turbine to detract from the industrial landscape of the adjacent Robinsons Shaft and South Crofty pit heads – and local pressure groups, concerned over noise, flicker and potential impact to local bats and birds, resulted in a reduction in size of the turbine over time from the originally proposed 180 kW unit to the 5 kW vertical axis turbine now installed and operational.

We developed a bespoke sustainability framework that formed the backbone of the design process, securing Lottery funding and the ultimate success of the project. Image: Buro Happold


The challenging sustainability aspirations coupled with the regeneration potential in a highly derelict urban area of the South West stood out from the lottery bid documentation and were a major factor in securing the Big Lottery Support for the project. As the first of the four Living Landmarks projects to be completed, being the largest single grant fund awarded under that programme, and residing in the context of a World Heritage Site makes the Heartlands Project unique and special.

The way in which the bespoke sustainability framework has been used as the backbone for the design and delivery process has ensured that the scheme has retained its integrity throughout which, in turn, has helped to keep the local community engaged as they see their collective dream realised without being watered down for economic or uncontested reasons.

A major success of the Heartlands project design process is the way in which the whole team worked together to select simple engineering systems to meet the specific needs of the site and to integrated these into the overall architectural and engineering solutions. The true success of the project will be the continued successful operation of the site long into the future, attracting many visitors to Pool and, as a result, kickstarting development in the local economy and in the community as a whole.

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