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Sustainable wildlife centre opens in 26-mile long Essex country park

Perfect Circle Logo outlined v3 rgb 2020
The five metre viewing tower allows bird watchers and nature lovers to take a closer look at the wildlife park 1

A new wildlife discovery centre has opened in Essex’s River Lee Country Park – using fully recyclable materials that will reduce the building’s impact on landfill waste.

Situated in the 26-mile-long Lee Valley Regional Park – stretching from the Thames to Hertfordshire, the £700,000 wildlife discovery centre has replaced the former Bittern Information Point, which, after 30 years, had run the course of its lifespan.

The new centre offers far-reaching, 360-degree views of the surrounding area from the five-metre viewing tower, allowing bird watchers and nature lovers to take a closer look at the wildlife in the park.

CCTV system and live nest box camera footage, will provide bird watchers and nature lovers of all ages undisturbed, close-up access to the lake's wildlife – including key Biodiversity Action Plan species, the Eurasian bittern.

In collaboration with Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, architects Andris Berzins & Associates, and contractor Carmelcrest Construction, Perfect Circle, through our SCAPE Consultancy framework, provided project management, structural engineering, principal design, civil engineering and upfront QS costings to the project from early concept design to hand-over delivery.

We are delighted to have worked alongside Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, architects Andris Berzins & Associates, and contractor Carmelcrest Construction for this project, which has breathed new life into River Lee Country Park.

Victoria Brambini, Managing Director of Perfect Circle

She continued, "Wartime bombing, changes in industry and post-war reconstruction meant that more than 50 years ago, the area surrounding the River Lee was derelict and neglected. But over the past five decades, the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority has been dedicated to transforming the area into a world-class destination."

"The coronavirus pandemic has shown us how much people value open spaces and the ability to get close to nature, so we are expecting it to become one of the most popular areas to visit for both the local community and tourists.” Victoria Brambini, Perfect Circle

The centre, which is equipped with ramps and lifts to make it accessible to all, provides an area for the community and tourists to appreciate the wildlife. There is also a fully accessible information point and a two-tier viewing area at ground level, with a separate wildlife information room.

The overriding ambition for the scheme was to refrain from using any concrete so the materials can be recycled when the building reaches the end of its life and to be conscious and protective of local wildlife habitats.

Hannah Hamilton, Regional Partner for the south east at Perfect Circle

Hannah continued, "All materials can be dismantled, reused and recycled; the helical piles can be unscrewed and reused, all timber elements can be chipped and used for biofuel, gabion retaining walls can be reused, and the foundations can be recycled because they aren’t composed of concrete.

"The innovative facility demanded sustainable materials for sub-structure and super-structure elements to overcome difficult site constraints – the area is located on a remote site between two rivers with limited access – and Covid-19 restrictions.

"The structural design, led by Pick Everard associate Jayesh Patel, incorporated off-site construction techniques – including Keller helical piles, pre-fabricated glulam beams, and spliced steel framing – to reduce manual handling risks, construction waste and improve site logistics."

"The construction programme also had to take into account bird migration patterns and nesting, with construction activities being monitored for noise to minimise disruption to the local wildlife, such as bird migration and nests." Hannah Hamilton, Perfect Circle

The new centre offers far reaching 360 degree views of the surrounding area
It’s clearer than ever that communities need green open spaces with facilities that enhance their quality of life. It is wonderful to see these collaborative teams are so enthusiastically embracing sustainable design and construction principles to encourage development that supports the biodiversity and wildlife within the local area.

Mark Robinson, Group Chief Executive at SCAPE

Mark continued, "With these principles at heart, Perfect Circle and Lee Valley Regional Park Authority have delivered a community asset that sets a positive example.

“In addition, this project demonstrates the benefits of using a direct award framework to access the very best technical expertise to solve these kinds of complex challenges with innovation and a keen eye on high quality, sustainable delivery.”

All materials used for the wildlife discovery centre can be dismantled, reused and recycled; the helical piles can be unscrewed and reused, all timber elements can be chipped and used for biofuel, gabion retaining walls can be reused, and the foundations can also be recycled because they aren’t composed of concrete. This will reduce the impact on landfill waste once the building reaches the end of its design life after 50 years.

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