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Gamlingay Eco Hub: Community’s dream is realised

Posted on 2 April 2012

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Guest Author

By Vera Hale

On Friday, 23rd March, The Rt Hon Andrew Lansley MP, Secretary of State for Health and South Cambridgeshire’s MP, officially opened the newly refurbished Gamlingay Eco Hub. The new community centre is one of the early projects to receive support from The Glass-House, and throughout its development has been a true community led project. It is also a truly sustainable building designed by civic Architects Ltd – sustainable on an environmental, social and economical level.

First and foremost is the social aspect. It was a project devised, led and managed by the community. As all of those involved acknowledge, the key figure was Bridget Smith. She rallied around to get the whole community on board to realise the £2m refurbishment of the original community centre.

Together with their architects (civic Architects led by Dan Jones) they established the right brief to help regenerate the building and give it a new lease of life. The new functions added to the centre are the council offices, library and extra multi-purpose spaces to enhance the potential of the building and to increase the use and opening hours of the centre. These features have made the centre a real asset for the surrounding community, but also make it a viable investment, using it to its full potential.

The building has a new welcoming entrance that leads onto a library area and to the council offices on the mezzanine floor. From there the spaces flow into one another. With daylight entering most of the building, it leads you effortlessly from room to room. But all spaces can be separated to suit the requirements of the events. The original main hall is retained as it was cheaper to refurbish it than to build a new. At the rear, there is new square space with a beautiful timber roof and overall the whole building has a nice contemporary finish with great detailing.

Great energy saving technology is also employed in the building which will save the community money in future maintenance costs. It is kitted out with a ground source heat pump, which generates the heat for the underfloor heating in the new extensions. Photovoltaic panels on the roof generate the electrics to run the pump and other electrics in the building, with the surplus sold back to the grid. There is a rainwater harvesting tank installed that supplies the toilet cisterns and a solar thermal to supply the changing rooms with warm showers. The whole building is super insulated and creates a high level of comfort for the interior. During the build only two skips left the site according to architect Andrew Siddalll. Re-using as many of the materials as possible and with good detailing, waste was minimal.

It was a long journey to get the project realised. The initial contractor went bust and they had to be very resourceful to get all the funding together. But through sheer tenacity and community collaboration, they created a fantastic community centre which they can be proud of.

Watch a video of the opening of the Eco Hub here.

Vera Hale is a co-founder of the Cave co-operative and is undertaking a collaborative PhD at Sheffield University with The Glass-House and bureau – design + research, investigating the merits of Community Led Design.