Posted: 14 July 2017
After 5 years of leading the design team for William’s Den, the children’s play barn in East Yorkshire has finally opened to great success. Over the past week it has been praised in the press. The Hull Daily Mail said that the design “looks fantastic”, and further praise in the article included the fabric first approach to the design as well as the attention to the context of the site.
“The setting is just superb. The views are fantastic and I think the materials they have used really compliment where we are.” – Hull Daily Mail
William’s Den was also in the Guardians top 10 list for the best new family attractions in the UK. It notes that the space created is not only for children but also that it has “plenty of space for adults to relax too, including a cafe selling homemade food.”
“The venue also has a restaurant, The Kitchen, which will serve up wood fired pizzas in a ‘lovingly restored’ brick barn”- Hull Daily Mail
Following the brief, we set out to design a space that would give children an indoor environment to play in that would reflect an outdoor play experience. With this in mind we thought it was key in the design process to specify natural materials. This fabric first approach also extended to our conversion of the Grade II Listed brick barns for the restaurant and cafe.
A Sustainable Approach to Design
Native specify materials to avoid using fossil fuel based insulation material, have a low carbon footprint, are recyclable and do not emit harmful gasses to pollute internal air.
The walls of the play barn: For the play barn Hempcrete blocks were used. This was the largest order of hemp blocks in the UK at the time. The blocks, manufactured by Equilibrium, are an environmentally friendly building material, being insulating, breathable, and “better-than-zero-carbon” – the hemp contained in the blocks absorbs more atmospheric carbon dioxide as it grows than is emitted in making the blocks, including the manufacture of the lime ‘binder’. This atmospheric CO2 is then locked up (‘sequestered’) for the lifetime of the building.
Other insulation in the restaurant roof and play barn walls: Other insulation used was largely wood fibre which is composed of waste wood which would otherwise be lost to landfill. It is inert, has no harmful chemicals within it and helps to even out internal temperature variations.
Floors: The floors are insulated with recycled foamed glass. This glass is not commercially viable to recycle and would otherwise go to landfill. Using this product prevents 32,000 tonnes of waste glass going to landfill per year. This was one of the largest orders of foamed insulation in the UK.
Ceiling: The ceilings are finished with Wood woll board which is manufactured from sawmill waste. This has a low carbon footprint and has significant benefits in terms of absorbing sound – crucial in the play barn!
Praise for the Design at William’s Den