Park Lane Primary School, Wembley

When London’s Brent Council undertook the provision of a new Nursery for Park Lane Primary School, Wembley, their brief emphasised environmental considerations. This reflected the ethos of the school, which is committed to ecologically sound policies.

Headmaster, Martin Francis says ‘We wanted an environmentally friendly, child centred nursery.’

The architects, Owen Williams Consultants, responded by designing the main structural elements of the building using timber and specified timber windows and doors throughout. Matthew Robinson, Project Architect, emphasises ‘The aim was to create a sustainable building and to make it look as natural as possible’

The architects created a single storey, rectangular building which maximises the availability of natural light by the extensive use of glazed walling. They also incorporated an intelligent lighting system which self manages the light within the building.

A glulam post and beam construction enabled the economical creation of a clear span building with a slightly curved roof, with a radius of some 40m, resulting in a flexible, open space ideal for varied nursery education use.

Two walls are brickwork, broken by windows in ‘primary shapes’ – a triangle, a circle and a rectangle – and two walls, (the east and south walls), are entirely glazed.  Three roof lights echo the primary window shapes, also being a triangle, a circle and a rectangle. Hard landscaping has been strictly limited, with the glazed doors opening onto timber decking, with grass steps to the lower levels.

While the curved roof profile, which interfaces with full height glazing at either end, is undoubtedly aesthetically pleasing, it presented something of a challenge for the window suppliers, Broxwood, as it required the glazed timber sections to have a  radius equal to that of the roof.

Ron MacKelvie joint MD of Broxwood explains ‘Our challenge was to make sure that the curved glazed sections matched with the radius of the roof beams exactly – which we managed.’

The glazed panels were completely prefinished and factory glazed with a low-e argon filled unit with a u value of 1.1, contributing to the environmental benefits of the development. By using prefinished units build time was speeded up and the risk of site damage during construction was greatly reduced. Further environmental benefits accrued from the use of windows and door frames made from laminated Siberian larch. As this is a particularly dense wood, it requires no preservative treatment, which softwood alternatives e.g. red pine might do.

This environmentally friendly building is topped off by the ultimate in natural roofing – a sedum roof. Supplied as a package by German firm Erisco Bauder, the sedum based turf provides a good, sustainable alternative roof finish, which once established, requires only occasional watering and feeding. The overall effect is pleasing, particularly in late summer when it flowers.

It is fitting that this forward-looking building should be dedicated to Loraine Matthew-Williams, one of the parents instrumental in its instigation. A plaque at the entrance records her very fitting catchphrase ‘Forward ever, backward never!’

Project Team

Design Team: Owen Williams Consultants, Lewes, East Sussex
Contractors: ACS Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire
Door and window suppliers: Broxwood Ltd Perth

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Broxwood’s passive house standard timber windows and doors provided the perfect solution for Findhorn’s ecovillage development. Read the Findhorn case study