Lakeview Village Hall, Great Easthall

Sittingbourne, Kent

Project: New build village/community hall

Client: Swale Borough Council

Architect: BBM Sustainable Design Ltd.

Structural Engineer: MLM

Building Services Engineers: Norman Bromley Partnership LLP

Quantity Surveyors: QS Consultant

Project Managers: Synergy

Landscaping Architect: Andrew Ramsey Associates with BBM Sustainable Design Ltd.

Construction Manager: BMR Construction Ltd.

Completion date: June 2017

Total floor area: 206m2

Contract Sum: £825K (incl. of external works)

Village Hall website


In January 2015, BBM were awarded the appointment of architect for a new village hall within the rapidly enlarging neighbourhood of Great Easthall to the northeast of Sittingbourne in Kent. For the new building, named by local residents as Lakeview Village Hall, BBM’s pitch was to create a ‘marker on the map’; to provide a visual and community focal point within its emerging townscape and landscape setting. The village hall is due commence operations in the summer of 2017.

After an extensive feasibility study, involving a number of sketch options and a couple of design workshops with local residents, BBM were joined by the rest of the design team to progress a preferred layout which was judged to be within budget and offered a high degree of user flexibility.

The architects wanted to achieve a main space with a strong sense of occasion implicit in its form and scale and thus be a great venue for a multitude of special occasions and the people it serves. It does this primarily with the exposed timber beams and the dramatic wedge-shaped ‘light canons’ which serve not only to help pull ample amounts of daylight into the space but also to draw fresh air through the hall. Externally the light canons provide the ‘marker on the map’ prominence the architects had been searching for.

The key features of the hall are a main space of 104 m2 that can sub-divide into two smaller spaces of 37 m2 and 66 m2 respectively. The smaller of the two spaces directly connects to a children’s toilet to facilitate parent and toddler sessions. Notably the hall has been placed on the north side of the building, with spill-out doors facing away from the nearby housing, thus minimising the risk of noise nuisance. The design also includes a third activity space in the form of the entrance foyer which, as supported by the serving hatch of the adjoining kitchen, the architect’s foresaw as a place for hosting coffee mornings and provide catering for parties. It faces back to the lake at the heart of the new housing area.

In effect this compact village hall can accommodate up to three independent activities simultaneously and as such it affords a sustainable potential for revenue generation.

One of BBM’s previous village hall designs incorporated a large covered space onto a village green and it proved hugely successful and a great asset for a multitude of external activities and events. The canopy of Lakeview Village Hall is intended to help stage outdoor events or just act as a covered space for external tables and chairs.

The architect’s concern for sustainability ensured Lakeview Village Hall is kind to the environment. It does this not only by exploiting techniques for passive solar heating and ventilation and ample levels of natural daylighting, it is also constructed of materials of low environmental impact and accommodates high levels of ecological value within its built form and landscape design. The landscape and the building itself include a range of features to support a rich ecological diversity of fauna and flora. 

The village hall is largely built out of timber. The architects were keen to exploit the sustainability credentials of wood as it is a grown material of minimal processing energy with little pollution and best of all it is composed of locked carbon generated by the tree’s absorption of carbon dioxide. The use of timber products includes the structurally insulated panels (SIPs) of the external walls, the glulam softwood structural frame, the oak shakes of the light canons and the glulam coppiced sweet chestnut of the external wall cladding. The architects felt the coppiced sweet chestnut was a perfect choice as it is not only grown and processed within the Kent and Sussex Weald, it also pays homage to the hop poles that used the very same wood source and that were so prevalent in the landscapes around Sittingbourne. Internally, the Granwood floor blocks are formed of a wood/cement composite as are the acoustic ceiling panels.

Unusually there is no sand and cement floor screed. Instead the floor slab consists of a concrete slab with all the insulation laid beneath and up the sides of it. With no floor screed, all the floor finishes are laid onto the concrete slab, with the vinyl finishes using a latex screed to make up the difference floor finish depth.

With careful attention to the placement and orientation of glazing and solar shading, the village hall should be able to create a lot of its own space heating on bright winter days whilst deflecting too much solar energy from entering the building during the warmer periods of the year. Deep reveals and overhangs around the glazing ensure the actual form of the building does most of this effect. For the extra functionality of being able to ‘dim-out’ for presentation projections, the light canons are also fitted with motorized external blinds. These can be deployed in hot weather to protect against overheating. Additionally with all the insulation of the concrete slab located below the building, the full thickness of this ‘thermal mass’ provides the building with a powerful heat sink bringing further over-heating defense. Otherwise the building includes ample levels of thermal insulation and thus slows unwanted heat loss and raises energy efficiency.

The project’s building services consultants, Norman Bromley Associates devised the strategy for heating, ventilating, lighting and powering the new village hall. Passive ventilation ducts provide the ventilation to the main hall spaces. Motorised louvres can be adjusted to increase or decrease the levels of fresh air into the building. The light canons serve an important role in creating the stratification of air volume in the hall that in turn draws the air through the inlet louvres at low level and out through the high level vents mounted on the sides of the canons. The foyer space uses manually openable window vents and skylights to create much the same effect. The primary source of heating comes from a highly efficient gas condensing boiler and a gas-fired water heater.

The project also provides a good home for local ecology. The landscape has been designed with a variety of native woodland tree and shrub species as well as wildflower and grass meadows. A hibernacula provides a dedicated habitat for beneficial species. The building’s flat roof incorporates a wild flower meadow and, along with bat boxes fitted to the sides of the light canons, the building itself goes a long way to offsetting the ecological value of the footprint it displaced.

Anticipating the needs of the future, the architects were mindful to create a building that would easily accept change and expansion. There was always a hope that the building could at some point in the future provide changing facilities for the playing fields to the south of the village hall. The design anticipated the layout of a building being added on its southeast side. The plant room and utility connections were sized to allow this to happen as well. Additionally the external canopy would serve as a covered link to a future building potential on the west side. Along the north side of the site, the car park can be extended to meet an increased parking demand. The large light canon has a significant southwest facing pitch which the designers envisaged to allow for the future fitting of a photovoltaic (solar electric) array.

BBM and the rest of the design and client team are hopeful the Lakeview Village Hall will provide a great home and focus for neighbourhood events and parties well into the future. As part of the wider aspirations from the very beginning of the project, we hope the new facility will stimulate a sense of place and belonging to the residents of Great Easthall, be a ‘marker on the map’ in terms of architectural presence and at the same time be a good custodian of its local ecosystem and minimise environmental impacts in its use and construction.

Community/ Education