Tuesday, 15 February 2011

15 February 2011

Welcome to my blog which will follow the construction of Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s new visitor centre for Bradfield Woods over the next 6 months or so. I hope you will share the trials, tribulations and successes of this innovative building project.

The first challenge has been to come up with a design that will sit comfortably in its woodland setting. The building it will be replacing was little more than a glorified shed. That has now gone and the new building will be sited amongst the trees nearby.

While work has not quite started on the ground, there has been lots of work ‘behind the scenes’ from design and planning to sourcing timber for construction.

Our aim is to make this building as eco-friendly as possible with the following targets:

  1. Ideally the building will be carbon negative, i.e. there will be more carbon locked up in the fabric of the building than was used to construct it.
  2. No concrete or gypsum plaster will be used in the construction
  3. The timber will be sourced from the nearest locations possible
  4. Recycled materials will be used where they can

In a nutshell, the building will be mostly green-oak framed and built on a simple oak beam foundation – literally just resting on the ground. The external walls will be clad in western red cedar and the roof will be clad in zinc.

It is not a large building, only 13.3m x 8.8m. It will consist of a main multi-purpose room (education, display etc), two disabled WC’s, an office and a covered walk through area with interpretation.

Key Partners

Modece Architects
Based in Suffolk, Modece have brought to the project their skill and experience in designing sustainable buildings.

J P Chick & Partners
David Cantrill of JP Chick provided the structural engineering expertise to design the somewhat unconventional foundation design and the superstructure.
Suffolk Tree Services
Andy Gentle’s STS are undertaking a vital part of the project felling and milling much of the timber that will be used for the building.

Canham Builders
A specialist in timber framed building, Mike Canham and his team are the main contractor for the build. Canham Builders built the Trust’s Lackford Lakes visitor centre, Brooke House office extension and the workshop and volunteer accommodation at Bradfield Woods.


Oak Frame
The bulk of the oak required for the frame has come from the Trust’s Groton Wood near Kersey. Thinning the large number of oak trees in the southern part of the wood will benefit the hazel coppice beneath. Additional oak has come from management work in Bull’s Wood close to Bradfield.

Groton Wood oak prior to milling
Oak stem on the saw bench
First few oak beams cut for foundation structure

Western Red Cedar
The Trust purchased 17 tonnes of western red cedar from a wood owned by the Rushbrook Estate close to Bradfield Woods. The cedar was being felled as part of a programme of work to restore ancient woodland that had been planted with conifers in the 1950’s.

Western red cedar de-barked ready for milling
Some of the cedar milled into boards for decking and cladding

1 comment:

  1. Looks like a very exciting project. It will be interesting to see how the visitor centre will evolve over time. I am curious to know how the wood will be preserved in an eco-friendly way so the visitor centre lasts many years.