Cuerden Valley Park visitor centre is truly a one-off. At the project’s outset, the client simply asked for an ‘eco building’, beginning a journey of learning about the Living Building Challenge (LBC) and natural, regenerative materials. With community engagement at its heart, the project fits purposefully into its location in the park, one of the guiding principles of the LBC.
The visitor centre is constructed from plant-based materials with the aim of net zero carbon across its whole life cycle. The materials pallette is kept deliberately simple: a timber frame infilled with straw and plastered with lime, and natural materials used as finishes throughout, including natural linoleum flooring, linseed oil-based sealants and natural paints. The architect has not used cement in construction for more than two decades, and the visitor centre sits on pile foundations made from timber and repurposed car tyres filled with rammed stone; the construction method is evident everywhere you look, and is simple enough that non-builders were able to be involved in the works.
The visitor centre was shortlisted as a finalist in the 2020 Alliance for Sustainable Building Products awards; judges were particularly impressed with the level of community engagement in the design and construction, and the resulting sense of ownership.