We turned a visitors’ centre into a self-sufficient entity

Project: To refurbish the Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s (NWT) visitor centre at Cley Marshes

HA Consulting Engineers were engaged to refurbish the existing building and create a new structure, providing a larger space for visitors.

NWT required a green footprint for this project, demonstrating their commitment to the environment and conservation. To accommodate this focus, our approach placed sound ecological ideas at the forefront of our planning and design work.


Some of NWT’s main requirements for the project were as follows

  • To create a space where visitors could relax and enjoy the panoramic views
  • Construct an additional building that conjoins with the older visitors’ centre
  • Install sustainable energy generation facilities, harnessing renewable sources
  • Use environmentally friendly materials and construction techniques

The new building needed to conjoin with the old visitors’ centre using sustainable resources in its construction

Construction Solutions

To fulfil the sustainable construction considerations of the project we

  • Sourced concrete blocks manufactured using recycled resources
  • Matched the structural grid to standard plywood sizes ensuring no offcuts
  • Employed a sustainable mix design including PFA for in-situ reinforced concrete items
  • Utilised the insulative properties of mineral wool as a filling for wall cavities

Ecologically friendly materials were sourced to reduce the carbon footprint of the production processes

Sustainable Resources

We accessed sustainable resources using these systems

  • A 6kW single propeller wind turbine sitting at the front of the structure
  • 4.0m² unit of south-facing free-standing solar photovoltaic panels
  • Ground source heat pump buried beneath a purpose-built mound
  • Green roof with rainwater harvesting and storage facilities

Facilities were created to provide the visitors’ centre with energy and water from renewable sources

Design Considerations

We implemented these features to create an attractive relaxing space for visitors

  • Used an L-shaped footprint to allow the building to offer protection from the winds
  • High levels of design and engineering for the complex double curvature green roof
  • Kept constant contact with manufacturers to ensure that the roof met project’s high standards
  • Visitors can see through the entire building with the continuous band of glazing

The building design was carefully shaped to give visitors a relaxing space to enjoy the beautiful views

The Final Result

  • NWT and the village of Cley were extremely satisfied with the new building
  • The building creates a striking and impressive profile at close range
  • Viewed from a distance the building blends with the natural panorama

The client was extremely satisfied with the final result, which blended in with the local natural panorama


This project won the prestigious Institution of Structural Engineers East Anglian Branch Award for Structural Excellence.

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