Romney Marsh Visitors Centre

New Romney, Kent

Gross Floor Area: 143m2
Wall Construction: Timber frame with rendered straw bales
Floor Construction: Insulated sand/gravel slab with pc paving
Rood Construction: Sedum planted ply deck
Client: Romney Warren Trust / Shepway District Council

The Romney Marsh Visitor Centre 

The Marsh landscape, host to fields of grain and Dungeness beach cobbles, is bounded by chalk cliffs to the east and Wealden forests to the north. The architectural aim of the Romney Marsh Visitors Centre was to fuse these materials into a discernable tectonic language and an ultimate expression of a building pertaining to place.

This award winning project is an exemplar of how to minimise a building’s impact on the environment by using resource mapping to find materials that can be used within the construction process, turning the final built object into a ‘material store’. BBM designed a visitors centre for Shepway District Council that includes a main building constructed from straw bale, as well as a smaller pre-fabricated timber-frame cabin for toilet facilities. A stand-alone sewage treatment system with overland flow reed beds forms part of a sustainable drainage system for the centre.

The materials and products specified for Romney Marsh focused on reducing manufacturing pollution, minimising resource extraction and reducing delivery distances. The heavy aggregates used on the site all came from within a 5 km radius. Coppiced chestnut was harvested from the Kent Weald and straw bales were sourced from local farms.

As an early example of BBM’s deconstruct/reconstruct ethos, almost every constituent part of the project can be reused in the future; the building has been designed for easy disassembly. The prefabricated toilet block can be relocated to a new site, the English larch frame can be unbolted and used elsewhere, the locally sourced aggregates used in the gabions and the sand/gravel floor slab can be reclaimed as a raw resource, and the pre-cast paving slabs can be lifted out and used anew.

The project was completed in the Summer of 2003 and has been described as the “Greenest building in the South East of England” by Tony Wimble, Environment Officer of Kent County Council.

Closing the loop, Community/ Education