Last edited 07 Jan 2021

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Imagination Works

A demonstration of innovative use of technology, which has been benchmarked against the environmental strategy, Gerard Langleys’ Imagination Works — Embracing an Urban Future receives Commended for the Student Award for Excellence in Architectural Technology (Project) 2017.


A demonstration of innovative use of technology, which has been benchmarked against the environmental strategy, Gerard Langleys’ Imagination Works — Embracing an Urban Future receives Commended for the Student Award for Excellence in Architectural Technology (Project) 2017.

The Sharrow Lane Children’s Centre presents an introspective courtyard design, with a butterfly roof buildings approach offering inclusive and accessible site integration to define spaces within and around. Both the concepts of protection for young users, and site prominence are key to promote the design and to address the challenging urban environment.


The aim of the project was to place a children’s centre at the heart of an urban established context. The design is intended to offer the young users the best start in life. The introspective design provides spaces for children to explore and be safe in, as well as community driven aspects that provide services for parents to further their knowledge as well as providing functions that benefit the community.

The scheme presents a clay honeycomb blockwork primary system in a structural and non-structural manner. This acts as the key primary structure for the nursery zoned aspect of the design, whilst within the public building plan a steel structural frame is utilised to provide support to the upper aspect of the large adaptable spaces. Therefore the blockwork acts as an infill system for this building.

The design’s elevational response explores a classical principle of architecture; stability. This classical manner is achieved by using a denser and heavier structure at the base and creating a visually lighter appearance as the elevation rises. This approach, with the division of the buildings on the site, in plan and in elevation through site level placement creates a protected and effectively filtered building ideology.


Internally the scheme presents a centralised circulation approach to maximise daylight potential for spaces. The nursery aspect allows for a private connection to the external play spaces for the young users, whilst the public aspect provides multiple entry points and mixed use spaces including offices, retail, community, and café spaces for the diverse range of activities. Disabled facilities are also provided in the scheme, these include a changing places toilet and disabled user toilets.

Efficiency and simplicity are at the heart of the design assembly. Utilising a monolithic load bearing blockwork system that has proven effective in the UK, and exploring a concrete alternative such as clay honeycomb blocks, allow for a more efficient material in terms of environmental credentials and buildability. Using this system builds on a tried and tested solution.

For the upper storey of the public building where a lighter aspect has been implemented, the primary steel structure used allows for an off-site assembly, providing a quicker erection of the structure once placed on site, addressing the site working limits. The box windows specified also use an off-site construction for increased efficiency. These systems are utilised on the passive floor slab system that can be quickly laid with an EPS insulation build up to allow for an effective lead time in the building of the design.

Using a traditional proven construction technique of blockwork, developing the materials used, whilst also analysing the thermal detailing allows for the wall, enabled floor and roof build ups to achieve a passive standard of construction.

Whilst blockwork provides thermal mass properties, an internal insulation is utilised for the external perimeter walls to prevent excessive thermal mass gains. Therefore thermal mass is strategically integrated within the ground floor screed, upper concrete metal deck, and internal blockwork walls. The external wall build up, utilising a wood fibre insulation, contains no embodied energy, provides a passive u-value of 0.110 W/m2K. Whilst the passive floor slab system consisting of an EPS build up gives a u-value of 0.081 W/m2K. Finally the roof presents a 0.101 W/m2K u-value. This exceeds building regulations and provides details that offer no thermal bridging at key connection joints.

Moisture protection is in the form of the vertical timber cladding system fixed to a counter batten system with an engineered brick course providing protection for the sweet chestnut cladding at the ground level of the wall connection.

Judges’ comments:

Judges were drawn to the ceramic rod brise soleil and curtain wall sliding faade which would allow users to control temperature, glare and filter unwanted noise from the building. This, along with other environmental strategies such as the biodiverse green roof and a rainwater tank passively influence the cooling and heating properties of the building demonstrated a fantastic understanding for Gerard to receive the Commended Award.

This article was originally published in the AT Autumn issue 123.


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