published in sb 6/2016
Read, play, swim
The community hub contains a wide range of leisure elements including a 6 lane 25m pool, learning pool, fitness suite, dance studios and a 4 courts sports hall plus external 3G pitch and play area. FaulknerBrowns fused administrative municipal customer service facilities, office space, community meeting and events rooms which are integrated into a 5,800m² centralised public library and media space, all of which overlap and are visually and physically linked in simple rectilinear form.
The project represents the first phase of an ambitious regeneration project which seeks to redefine the existing town centre which has, during the late 20th century, suffered dramatically from the effects of the de-industrialisation of this region. The design solution for Hebburn Central was conceived through rigorous modularization principles. It capitalised upon the industrial heritage of the site by adopting technologies and prefabrication techniques which are synonymous with Hebburn’s engineering and ship building pedigree.
The newly aligned public streets run north/south meaning that the large linear elevations associated with a 6 lane pool could be positioned east/west allowing the pool hall to benefit from morning sun and the passive benefit of morning pre-heating to the space, helping reduce heat-up requirements for operation, whilst also linking and repairing a broken urban grain as a result of the past demolitions of high-rise housing blocks. The building aimed to remain low-level, informed by the massing of local amenities nearby and the domestic scale of its neighbours, reducing wind tunnel effects with a lower treatment and arrangement of building mass, regenerating undeveloped land at the centre of the town.
Rich blend of community focused services
The building foyer overlooks the pool hall providing the visitor with a glimpse of the exciting activities contained within the building, putting every user at the heart of the project on arrival. The entrance area is also home to a cafe and seating area which directly overlooks the shallow fun pool enabling parents to enjoy refreshments in a comfortable atmosphere whilst being able to watch their children having fun or being taught to swim.
The library and customer service centre are located at ground floor level and enjoy direct access from the main entrance of the building. Customer service centre meeting rooms are located adjacent to the main enquiry desk to facilitate a variety of meeting types ranging from sensitive discussions to general enquiries about Council services. Library support accommodation is also located in this part of the building allowing the possibility of shared meeting rooms when appropriate. The 60 station fitness suite, dance and exercise studios are all visible from the main foyer thereby encouraging visitors to try out new facilities and encourage participation in sport and exercise.
Building fabric design and performance
Key to delivering the architectural success of the project was the extensive integration of off-site fabrication techniques and the relationship of standardised large-format steel panelling, re-interpreting the past with a progressive contemporary composition.
The building envelope is comprised from a substrate of FSC certified timber structural insulated panels (SIPS) measuring 1.2mx4.0m high. Aligned with the highly insulated prefabricated substrate wall panels, a weathering steel façade system has been designed to maximise standard coil and sheet sizes. The architecture and its materiality were designed as a composite solution – expressing both its visible forces (structural, functional and physical) and its invisible forces (cultural, contextual and commercial) through its form, massing and material expression.
The window/glazing positions have been optimised to east, west and north elevations meaning that a higher g-value (light transmittance) can be adopted throughout the project as high performance protective films (controlling solar gain) have been avoided.
The large expanse of glazing on the main approach elevation to the building integrates 300mm deep solar shading fins set on 1200mm centres, passively controlling solar gain to the library space in late morning in summer months (further promoting the optimum light transmittance glass specification) and avoiding heavy solar control treatments to the glass itself.
On the pool hall elevation, these fins act as carriers for a high level mesh screen which mitigates spectral reflection on the pool water (light reflectance on the water surface when viewed from a specific height meaning the pool attendants can no longer see to the bottoms of the pool), again avoiding increased lighting requirements whilst reducing energy load demand.
One of the key underlying environmental strategies that worked alongside the highly efficient envelope system was the ability for the heat generated in the gym to be used to entirely heat the pool water in the summer months when the gym is in operation.
Water cooled air pumps were adopted to work in conjunction with the gas-fired CHP system. Because the pool water has a year round heating demand and the gym areas have an almost year round cooling demand, heat pumps which cool and reject the heat to the pool are employed and offer higher operating efficiencies than air cooled pumps – supporting an interdependent energy optimisation between use types within the project. The building delivers an EPC rating of A which is uncommon for buildings containing swimming pools within the UK.
The off-site approach to material and technology used in the building envelope helped to remove waste from the construction process, whilst increasing quality through the benefits of off-site manufacture. Through this 98% of site waste was diverted from landfill along with 99% of the construction labour came from within 20 miles of site.