Chilterns Gateway Visitor Centre
Situated on an exceptionally windy site, on the crest of a hill overlooking the Dunstable Downs, the new centre is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). This highly sustainable building incorporates an unusual ‘windcatcher’ that captures air from the hill naturally and delivers it into the building through a 90 metre long underground concrete ‘earth duct’. The flexibility required for the large open plan educational/cafeteria space dictated a bespoke steel portal frame as the main structure. The engineered timber roof, reminiscent of a glider wing, works in combination with the steel frame to resist the high wind loads. Given the ecological importance of the site, the design team integrated the principles of sustainable construction into all aspects of the project.