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This community centre is adaptable, recyclable & made using recycled materials

Recycled materials and CLT
Cross laminated timber painted green walls

London-based Mae Architects recently completed a community centre with a focus on making the building adaptable for future growth and to use recycled materials.

Sands End Arts and Community Centre in Fulham, London, incorporates a circular approach to architecture, delivering on a goal of using long-lasting materials while minimising waste and pollution during construction.

Client Hammersmith & Fulham Council envisioned community facilities meant to encourage social engagement within the community.

Clerestory windows with recycled bricks

The new centre is located on the edge of South Park where a lodge, built in 1903, announced the park’s entry. The architects have retained this old lodge and given it new life as an arts space, with the newly built structures wrapping around it.

With their focus on the community and the planet, the adaptable building was constructed using recycled and recyclable materials along with cross-laminated timber (CLT). CLT is a solid engineered wood panel that is lightweight, strong and easy to install. It also offers superior fire, seismic, and thermal performance. Due to its prefabrication, it results in almost no construction waste and allows for design flexibility. This married well with recyclable hardware, such as metal bolts instead of glues, to allow for adaptation and re-use in the future.

“It was imperative to use materials that seemed best suited to simple construction,” explained Michael Dillon, an associate at Mae Architects.

Cross laminated timber structure with timber walls

Mae worked in collaboration with structural engineer Elliot Wood to maximize efficiency and minimize building materials. Leaving exposed CLT beams, for example, avoided the need for plasterboard.

“The timber proves a hard-wearing and more robust finish for heavy use, which we hope the centre will get in due course. It allows for adaptability, and also offers a warm tactility,” Dillon said.

Street view of Sands End Arts & Community Centre

Ticking the recycled materials box was the use of an innovative new brick product that is made from construction waste. The exterior walls are composed of WasteBasedBricks, made by StoneCycling, from construction waste that might otherwise end up in landfill. Mae asked StoneCycling to vary an existing color to look more like natural stone in alignment with their vision for the space. “We worked through different waste mixes to make the brick as sustainable and beautiful as possible,” said Dillon.

At first, the product was cost prohibitive, but the team was able to improve efficiency and reduce costs by turning the bricks on their sides. The use of the WasteBasedBricks resulted in 35% of the building being sourced from recycled products.

Distant view of the Sands End Arts & Community Centre

Passive energy savings are achieved through the design of a triangular roof, based on architectural designs of former glasshouse buildings in South Park and at Fulham Palace, found in the archives. These high-level windows allow the space to be lit naturally as well as providing restful tree top views. The green tree canopy influenced the internal wall colour with the calming green painted timber panels.

“The interior is about connecting with the landscape,” added Dillon.
It’s also about connecting members of the community, and as such, the center provides space for art exhibitions, community events for all ages, a café, and a children’s day nursery.

The new landscape design includes planting, green walls and wildlife habitats, creating a shady retreat from the hustle of the street and encourages local biodiversity.

Related project: For a very different take on a community centre, take a look at the cob mud and bamboo crafted Anandaloy Community Centre

CLT cross laminated timber structural beams with green painted timber walls

Sustainability specs:
– 35% of the building being sourced from recycled products
– Exterior walls built using WasteBasedBricks by StoneCycling, composed of construction waste
– Designed to be recyclable and dissassembled – bolt fixings were used instead of glue
– Adaptable spaces allow for a multitude of uses
– Responsibly sourced CLT
– Triangular roof form draws in ample natural light
– High level clerestory windows provide views to the surrounding treetops
– CLT is left exposed internally, removing the need for plasterboard
– Adaptable and made using recycled materials

Courtyard with mature trees
Sands End Arts & Community Centre
From the architect:

The interior materiality is driven by the image of the kinds of lightweight structures which enclose glasshouses, reinforcing the idea that the additions are designed to be secondary to the lodge. The use of an expressed timber roof construction gives a natural lightness to the space. These interior spaces are lit by large north facing clerestory glazing to give a consistent light environment for internal activities. Internally, the use of timber exposed timber structure and envelope reinforces the sustainable agenda behind the project while giving a highly tactile quality to the space.

Images courtesy of Mae Architects. Photography by Rory Gardiner

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