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Montpelier Community Nursery


Project Details

£250,000 to £499,999

New Build


AY Architects

Unit 15 , The Dove Centre , 109 Bartholomew Road , LONDON , NW5 2BJ

‘This is a building for children, designed by adults that have a knack of imagining what it is like to be a child again. It is a place in which everything is enchanting, full of possibility and resonant with its setting, a place of beauty, calm and generosity, such that I imagine children would never want to leave. AY Architects makes a virtue of the way in which life helps create architecture, and it appreciates that the dynamic programme is part of a broader dialogue with history, place and material.’ Sarah Wigglesworth, Founder Sarah Wigglesworth Architects AY Architects worked closely with Camden Community Nurseries from the beginning of 2009, when we coordinated a successful application for an Early Years Capital Grant to replace the dilapidated prefabricated structure built in 1983 on the same site. The enlarged nursery provides voluntary sector affordable childcare for the local community for 24 children 2-5 years olds. The new building is designed around a flexible playspace opening onto a wooded outdoor play area as part of Montpelier Community Gardens. The landscape becomes a key part of the children’s indoor and outdoor learning experience. Daylight and natural ventilation is brought into the building through strip windows located within the roof. The roof windows have a north-south orientation, spanning the floor plan diagonally. Deep overhangs capture low winter sun to generate heat gain, while preventing overheating from high sun in the summer. The superstructure is made up of prefabricated cross-laminated timber panel system with a white-washed internal factory finish. The exterior is clad with dark stained Siberian larch allowing the nursery to sit inconspicuously amongst the treescape of the park. Each year the Stephen Lawrence Prize, sponsored by the Stephen Lawrence Trust and the Marco Goldschmied Foundation, rewards the best building in the UK with a construction budget of less than £1 million. The prize, set up in memory of the teenager who was setting out on the road to becoming an architect when he was murdered in 1993, is intended to encourage fresh talent working with smaller budgets. The judges for the 2013 Stephen Lawrence Prize were: Baroness Lawrence; Marco Goldschmied, architect and past RIBA President; Phil Coffey and Mary Duggan, architects and past winners of the Stephen Lawrence Prize. Speaking about the Montpelier building, the judges said: ‘The architects were key to the vision for the nursery which is why it was delivered without compromise and produces an all-encompassing educational experience…. The building is designed to maximise sunlight, with a part-glazed saw tooth roof orientated north-south…. Internally the rooms are treated as giant furniture items working against the geometry of the structure. They are cleverly designed with and easily navigable by a small child. The selection of materials was a key part of the success. The black stained Siberian larch cladding allows the nursery to sit inconspicuously in amongst the treescape and contrasts with the white-washed internal timber against which the playful objects come to life.’ Marco Goldschmied added: ‘The Montpelier Nursery is one of those rare new buildings that are happy and serene in their context from the outset. It is the product of a genuine community effort involving many of the parents working closely with the local authority to make it so. Throughout their lives the children will affectionately recall the time they spent there.’ INCLUSIVITY The building is designed as a comfortable and engaging place to learn and work and for parents to spent time with their children. The design allows for step-free access throughout and around the building and disabled sanitary facilities for children and adults. There is a very good sense of security while providing the user, big and small, with a good sense of interaction with the surrounding environment. The staff office is strategically situated at a central location with unobstructed views in and around the building, creating a learning environment which is open, secure and easy to manage. The design gives children a multitude of experiences and references of the world around them with views of the landscape; the gardens, tree tops, roofs, sky and weather. The building establishes a strong link with the communal gardens in which it sits, which had previously become a neglected public space. The south wall of the main play space includes a large window and shutter looking directly onto the centre of the gardens. This gives the nursery a more visible presence and a greater level of interaction, contributing to a safer and more respected open space for the community. A slender, low bench forming part of the south elevation offers a new place within the gardens for children to sit and play and adults to use. The nursery is designed as an energy efficient building in operation and low carbon in construction. The focus on energy efficiency in the operation of the building was based on good design/building physics, good insulation, low air permeability and energy efficient mechanical and electrical installations. Renewable energy equipment was not incorporated in the design due to the limited construction budget. Passive Design: Low air permeability is designed to achieve half of that required by building regulations at the time of construction. This is achieved by good detailing. A new mains gas installation operates a 95% efficient condensing boiler for all domestic hot water and heating. The boiler replaced an electrical system for heating and hot water in the existing building. This improved the carbon output of the building from 31.62 KgCO2/m2/yr to 14.54 KgCO2/m2/yr, Natural Heating and Cooling: The roof design maximises daylight and allows the building to be naturally ventilated. Two strip windows with large overhangs with southern orientation allow the sun to enter the building when it is low in cooler months for heat gain. Conversely the large overhangs block out the hot summer sun to prevent uncomfortable conditions and overheating. A larger north facing roof window provides good daylight and facilitates cross ventilation for cooling in the summer. Good daylight levels reduce the use of artificial lighting for large parts of the day. Low Carbon Construction / Sustainable Materials: The cross laminated timber [CLT] panel system provided by KLH UK makes up the majority of the superstructure. This system significantly reduced the embodied carbon in the structure. The timber is sustainably sourced in Austria as a renewable construction material with zero waste in panel production. The prefabricated system allowed for a clean and efficient erection of the walls and roof of the building in one week. Aside from the CLT system other sustainable materials were sourced where possible, including a durable FSC Certified Siberian Larch decking installed for the external cladding. Biodiversity: The entire roof finish is covered with a mixed extensive sedum finish. This contributes to the local biodiversity of the gardens and immediate area, and provides water retention, reducing the volume of rainwater entering the public sewer.