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The Red Shed: Adams & Sutherland creates community beacon in Highlands

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Decked in agricultural red cladding, this community centre in the Scottish Highlands is designed to act as a beacon

Located within a remote and dramatic landscape, the recently completed Community Hub is the new home of the Kyle of Sutherland Hub, which opened in November 2017. This charity supports the deprived rural communities of the Kyle of Sutherland through clubs, activities and events. The project was funded by a Big Lottery Grant of £1.4 million.

Designed in collaboration with the local community, the 500m² building provides facilities that local people previously had to travel many miles to access, such as a community café, a soft play area, shared workspace and a multipurpose hall. Two entrances allow different spaces to operate and be used independently when necessary.

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Dsc0240 edit

Source: Anthony Coleman

Located at the base of a long valley, on a strip of land surrounded by the vast waters of the Kyle that connects the two villages of Ardgay and Bonar Bridge, the building’s agricultural red cladding is designed to act as a beacon. The site itself is a former coal yard among a group of light industrial buildings, and the new building’s scale and materiality aims to match this. The coal yard enclosure defines the boundaries of the site which now house outdoor play and sports areas.

Architect’s view

The community group behind this development were local, skilled and tenacious. At the point of Adams & Sutherland’s initial involvement they had gained ownership of the site and were providing activities and community events from a double decker bus and a pair of donated Portakabins.

From inception it was a priority for the client to involve local people and future building users with aspects of the emerging design. Each stage included extensive consultation. The client working group conducted drawing and collage workshops about the building interiors with young people, while Adams & Sutherland held consultation and information sessions around drawings and models on site. 

The budget was extremely tight, so a simple plan form was introduced to keep costs low, with the priority being to create beautiful spaces which would connect to the dramatic landscape and feel both generous and non-institutional. Aspirations and design ambition were high, as was the desire to achieve maximum square metreage for the budget. 

18 02 12 simplified drawings

18 02 12 simplified drawings

Source: Adams & Sutherland

The site is located within a flood plain requiring the building to be raised up. The effect is to amplify the spectacular views and the building’s relationship to the surrounding landscape. The Hub is a combination of two storeys and double-height space. The ground floor entrance and café is a tall space opening out to the views to the north, and internally looking on to a double-height soft play area. A generous south-facing linear space links the entrance to all the remaining building facilities and first floor. Deep reveals to the windows amplify the sense of space.

Our involvement spanned six years, beginning with a weekend attending community events and introducing the ideas for the facility to gain local ideas and input. Funding stages were progressed to achieve a project plan, feasibility study and planning application.

Dsc9337 edit

Dsc9337 edit

Source: Anthony Coleman

Designed to minimise running and environmental costs, the building has an airtight, super-insulated envelope and is heated by a biomass boiler. U-values exceed Building Regulations by at least 25 per cent. Heat recovery units and passive ventilation minimise the electrical energy associated with mechanical ventilation; natural light is brought into all spaces from differing directions; and low water use appliances are installed throughout. On an exposed site, the building profile and form creates a sheltered microclimate for outdoor activities. The building is ‘A’ rated.

Project data

Start on site 18 July 2016
Completion 18 July 2017
Gross internal floor area 470m²
Form of contract Standard Building Contract with Quantities (for use in Scotland)
Construction cost £1.4 million
Construction cost per m² £2,797 (excludes external works) 
Architect Adams & Sutherland
Client Kyle of Sutherland Hub
Structural engineer David Narro Associates
M&E consultant Max Fordham
Quantity surveyor / cost consultant Ralph Ogg & Partners
Project manager Catriona Hill
Principal designer Adams & Sutherland
Main contractor McGregor Construction
CAD software used Vectorworks
Estimated annual CO2 emissions 14.11kg/m²

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