The National Trust commissioned Paul Bancroft Architects yet again in 1998 to carry out detailed work for the renovation of a 17 th century building into a residential visitor centre. Located at the head of Brancaster Staithe on the North Norfolk coast, with spectacular views across salt-marsh to the dunes of Scolt Head Island National Nature Reserve, the building provides an educational activity facility for the enjoyment and exploration of the adjacent coastal marshes.
The environment took the forefront in the proceedings. With the incorporation of the latest renewable energy technology and energy efficiency measures in its construction and servicing, the Brancaster Millennium Activity Centre is one of the most environmentally sustainable buildings managed by The National Trust.
Building materials were carefully chosen by ecological audit and the employment of locally manufactured and reclaimed materials was of paramount importance. The use of more expensive British products such as softwood and hardwood took precedent due to the foreseeable environmental damage that would have been incurred by the importation of materials from overseas. Linoleum, an organic material, was used for the floor coverings and lamb’s wool was utilized as an insulation technique. The use of recyclable metals such as stainless steel was also of prime importance.
Paul Bancroft Architects implemented under floor heating to both the ground and first floors sourced by a geothermal heat pump on 8 and 16 hour cycles, located under the mud of a nearby tidal creek. Wind power, solar energy and photo rotate cells technology was also installed to provide the building with renewable energy. Extensive efforts were embodied in the overall plan to re-cycle waste products. Furthermore, the entire building was wired with computer technology that audits energy consumption in order to educate visitors so that they can make lifestyle changes to counteract their carbon impact on the environment.
The plans also included the repair and refurbishment of a barn to contain the sustainable service elements for viewing by the public. This barn was reinforced by the introduction of an internal steel frame skeleton with plate attachments to the exterior walls to provide rigidity to the excessively weathered structure.
The building has proved to be a great success both as a public building and in its pioneering use of environmentally sustainable techniques.