ERC Ebbw Vale

Environmental Resource Classroom

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This 140sqm Classroom is the first building completed on ‘The Works’ regeneration site in Ebbw Vale and the first to use Ty Unnos – ‘a house in a night’- an innovative Welsh Sitka spruce construction system.

 The ERC is located adjacent to the former pumphouse and filtration tanks, a haven for wildlife since the closure of the steelworks. The classroom is located to respond to this geometry, creating a simple rectilinear form with two key axes: an oak access deck to exploratory boardwalks, separating the classroom and toilet zones; and separating a servant storage wall from the served classroom which opens out to views across the filtration tanks and valley beyond.

 Internally, prefabricated birch plywood and recycled paper pin board units create a storage wall along the rear of the classroom, containing services, modular storage and wet spaces. The classroom opens to its immediate industrial setting and wider landscaped context through sliding and folding screens. The layered facade creates a play of colour and depth with red, yellow and black steel panels of wildlife super-graphics themed on four local habitats: woodland; industrial; wetland and grassland. These are concealed and revealed by charred vertical timber cladding around the classroom that blends with both the natural and industrial context and a galvanised steel grating over the WC block. An oversailing sinusoidal roof connects the two parts of the building and reinforces its horizontality, as well as providing solar shading to the glazed west elevation.

The Ty Unnos Sitka spruce construction system used in the building was developed by DRU-w and Coed Cymru as a collaborative research project to use a sustainable, low-tech and low-value method of stabilising homegrown Spruce for construction. 270x210mm box beams are fabricated from readily available sizes of spruce for use in portal frames. This first prototype comprises 9no. 7.2m portal frames at 2.4m centres with birch and spruce plywood Structurally Insulated Panels (SIPs) between for floor, walls, doors and roof, giving a U-value of 0.15 W/m2K. Prefabricated off-site, the superstructure was assembled in 10 days.

 The building uses predominantly local materials and achieves a 60% reduction in energy use over Building Regulations. A layered construction creates a didactic demonstration of sustainability through a heavily insulated fabric, passive ventilation, rainwater drainage channel and a high efficiency air to air heat pump for additional heating and ventilation, supported by a solar hot water array.  

Client : Blaenau Gwent CBC
Main Contractor : G Adams Construction
Value : £330k
Programme: 2007-2010

Awards: Shortlisted for Wood Awards 2010; National Eisteddfod Plaque of Merit 2011

Design Research Unit w
Bute Building
King Edward VII Ave
Tel: 02920 874430
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