Essex country park adds sustainable wildlife discovery centre

06 May, 2021

River Lee Country Park, which stretches between Essex and Hertfordshire, has recently opened a new £700k wildlife discovery centre, which uses fully recyclable materials that will reduce the building’s impact on landfill waste.

The centre will function as a hide and information point open to the public, but the standout feature is a two-tier, five-metre viewing tower that offers 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape. Equipped with ramps and a lift, the fully accessible venue is equally considerate of people and the environment and is expected to become one of the most popular areas in the 26-mile-long country park.

Operating under Perfect Circle’s unique collaboration, we were appointed by Lee Valley Regional Park Authority to deliver project management, contract administration, structural design and principal designer for the new wildlife centre, which was accelerated by SCAPE Consultancy. Our vision for the build embraced themes of sustainability and intimacy, allowing people to enjoy and get close to nature while not impeding unnaturally on the great outdoors.

Daniel Noon, director and main project lead at Pick Everard, said: “The structural design implemented low carbon materials and innovative detailing to enable reuse and recycling of all structural components. This will reduce the building’s impact on landfill waste at the end of the building’s lifespan and allow for adaptation to be completed with the lowest possible strain on the environment.

“The sustainability element of the building was vital considering it is a home for biodiversity. We are really pleased to have also included habitat improvements for some of the park’s priority species, including the creation of a Common Kingfisher nest bank and enhancements to the lake’s existing reedbed.”

We were involved in the design process from early concept design through to hand-over delivery. Because the centre is located on a remote site and has limited access, the project incorporated off-site construction techniques including Keller helical piles, prefabricated glulam beams, and spliced steel framing. This approach was favored because it reduced manual handling risks, construction waste and improved site logistics.

Paul Roper, head of project and funding delivery at Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, said: “The pandemic has reminded us all of the possibilities the outdoors offer. Therefore, we wanted to improve the park’s facilities. Now offering an accessible viewing platform that allows our visitors a striking view over the park is a key part of the building’s features.

“The structural design was obviously very important to us because people visit for the park’s natural beauty and not the built environment. However, the building has been a complete success and only contributes to the elegance of our attraction.”

Due to the location of the new building, the construction programme had to optimise efficiency in consideration of bird migration patterns and nesting. To ensure local wildlife remained unaffected throughout the project was key and construction activities were carefully monitored for noise pollution risks throughout. The construction was also completed within a six-month period, again accelerated in order to minimise disruption to the area.

David Harris, partner at Pick Everard, said: “We are really pleased to have been a part of a highly successful project working with Lee Valley Regional Park Authority. The participating organisations are all closely aligned on their vision for sustainability and this build showcases multiple forward-thinking construction techniques.

“Our structural design team have once again displayed their creativity by producing a building that will fulfil its core functions whilst simultaneously contributing to the beauty of the area.”

The discovery centre is located in the Essex area of the park and will be welcoming visitors from April 2021.

View News index

Don’t miss out!

Never miss a story, get them sent direct to your inbox. Simply provide your email address below:

E-Newsletter sign up