A wise building with sustainable principles
Amid the mighty mountains of Snowdonia National Park, a green revolution is underway. For over 40 years, the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) has led pioneering research into renewable energy sources and sustainable building techniques, and today it is a bastion of eco-conscious learning and development.
WISE represents all that CAT has achieved over the years, distilled into one building that showcases the highest standards of green building and energy conservation.
Although CAT is known as a leader in the field of sustainable building practices in the UK, WISE was a far more ambitious project than had previously been attempted. The Centre wanted to prove that non-conventional materials could be adapted to suit mainstream construction, and in doing so establish a new era of eco-building.
To meet our client’s brief for a building that is as close to zero carbon as possible, our team chose structural materials with very low embodied energy. These include FSC certified timber for the building frame, rammed earth for load bearing walls and Hemcrete’s for non-load bearing walls. Made from a mixture of lime and treated hemp, Hemcrete’s is a remarkable material that not only provides excellent insulation but actually absorbs CO2 in its manufacture – resulting in negative embodied carbon.
The majority of the structure consists of a braced glulam frame with super-strong galvanized steel connectors. Where additional stability was required, we fastened galvanized steel cross-bracing to the connectors. This gave the structure the embodied strength required to support the large spans that realised the expansive, open plan public areas.
We used rammed earth to create the load-bearing walls of the lecture theatre, which stands at the heart of the WISE building. Measuring 500mm thick x 7200mm high, these impenetrable structures encircle the theatre to ensure excellent sound insulation and acoustics within this central hub of learning. A deep, rich brown in colour, the walls are rendered with a shiny, textured finish that elevates the humble material from which they were hewn to realise a quite exceptional architectural feature.
Elegant, modern and cost effective to build, WISE represents a tectonic shift in the way we approach eco-building. Proving that green construction can be achieved on a large-scale by mainstream contractors, this project paves the way for the adoption of more sustainable practices across the UK, and indeed the world.
Services and approach
When we integrate our specialist teams around an approach, the benefits to the client multiply