Bradfield Woods Visitors Centre – ‘eco-friendly’

Bradfield Woods Visitors Centre, Bury St Edmunds

This project won the IStructE 2012 Branch Award for Structural Engineering Excellence

JP Chick & Partners Ltd were appointed by Suffolk Wildlife Trust (SWT) to design the structure for a new visitor centre at Bradfield Woods, near Bury St Edmunds. These historic woods date to early 12th century and the new visitor centre was to replace an existing small building on the site. The building is almost entirely timber, generally green oak with the exception of a small area of clay lump forming the chimneybreast.  The design combined modern building principles with the use of traditional ‘eco-friendly’ materials.

The design was an iterative process with the required structural timber sizes being passed to SWT who subsequently checked the quantity of oak trees necessary to meet the design. Fortunately, the Trust has a significant number of oak trees, planted post WW2, which required thinning. They were used for piling, the floor deck and framing elements of the single storey building.

After submitting this project for consideration in the 2012 branch award for Structural Engineering Excellence, we are extremely proud to announce that we won. The judges remarked, and we quote:-

“This project ticks every box from limited costs, through environmental considerations, to the use of delightfully unconventional foundations, and on to the final result, which is a building which nestles beautifully within its surroundings. Additionally, the submitted drawings are a delight to view: they contain thought and passions, from the initial sketch isometric proposals, through to the carefully-considered joint details, all prepared in a draughtsman’s hand rather than CAD, a skill long since lost to many engineers and technicians within the industry. This was a project where modern technology took a largely back-seat position and the scheme is undoubtedly all the better for this. It is a truly worthy winner of the 2012 Branch Prize”