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Green Genius

Building a new management centre in the heart of the Grade I, English Heritage listed Bicton Park has called for highly sensitive design and careful construction.
Bicton Arena is as quintessentially English as a Devonshire cream tea. A haven for equestrianism with five show rings, a cross-country course and banked seating set in 24ha of the Grade I listed Bicton Park.

Even the Arena's management building is listed. Unfortunately it is also listing, and is in need of major structural repair. And it is not even particularly close to the Arena itself. A new building was needed.




The building's primary use, a support facility for the arena, dictated that it must sit within its immediate vicinity. In 2004 a planning application was submitted for a new building centred on the arena. This met with obstacles and new application was submitted in 2005 for a two storey building sitting on the site of existing Raleigh barn, a rather ugly intrusion into the idyllic setting.
The chosen site slopes steeply downwards towards the arena site, and Lacey Hickie Kaley Architects worked hard to make the building blend into its surroundings. It has achieved this by conjuring up an elliptical shape to respect the natural, fluid formation of the tree clumps that are a feature of Bicton Park, and, by orienting the ellipse so it is directed towards the arena, making it appear as if it emerges from the landscape with a single storey becoming two as spectators approach the action.

The building's curved form presented challenges for contractor Dean & Dyball. "It's all been done freehand, literally," says site manager Marcus Mason. "It's been a case of getting the guys to think and to recalibrate the brain."

But the biggest call on the grey matter went on ensuring the building's green credentials would befit a client that is a recent recipient of the Queen's Award for Enterprise in the Sustainable Development category.

As such the building has got pretty much the lot: sedum roof; passive cooling (so no air-conditioning); maximisation of natural daylight and photosensitive low energy lighting (to minimise artificial lighting); high levels of insulation; a 50kW wood chip boiler; solar control glazing (to reduce solar heat gain). It also incorporates robust and long life materials such as European Oak uses recycled materials and construction materials sourced locally and from renewable sources.

The net result – a 40% lower carbon footprint for client Clinton Estates, owned by Lord and Lady Clinton. "With the woodchip boiler fed by the client's own wood chippings the carbon emissions from this building are very low," says Faber Maunsell senior engineer Iain Potter.The structure itself is nothing outrageous, with traditional foundations on a sandy ground bearing strata supporting a steel portal frame with bracing on both axes.

Floor plates are created by 7.5m long precast concrete hollow core beams with exposed soffits, supported on 6m span, 254mm universal columns with a bottom plate welded to the UC's lower plate.

"They are not excessive spans, says Faber Maunsell senior engineer Dan Smith.

"But it keeps it as a minimal structure."

Work is now well advanced but has fallen slightly behind schedule and will go slightly over budget as changes requested by the client are slotted in.

"We have a very hands on client," says Dean & Dyball contracts manager Paul Martin. "Lord and Lady Clinton are here almost weekly. It helps to keep us on our toes."

Many changes have been made as the work has progressed – a sometimes dangerous game on lump sum contracts – here it is a JCT2005 Design & Build with the design team novated to the contractor.

Martin agrees, but insists that it is all comes down to individuals and the way they handle such a direct client involvement.

"Yes, the client is very hands on, but you've got to think it's his building and its been good not waiting for monthly meetings to find out about changes. I feel we have a duty to tell people as it is.

"If you wait, it only ends up costing him money and us time."

And hands-on means you can keep a close eye on things. "It helps to keep us on our toes," says Potter. "But we're all quite proud of what we're doing here."

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