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UEA's Enterprise Centre makes good use of local resources
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An innovative green building - the UEA Enterprise Centre is due to complete at the end of April. The Centre has been built and designed to include the people and products of the local area at every step.
UEA's Enterprise Centre makes good use of local resources

The building is clad in thatch panels (a world-first) made by East Anglian master thatchers using local wheat straw, the timber has been sourced from local forests in Thetford, the concrete has been made using a special mix incorporating recycled sand from Ipswich construction sites etc. etc. Once complete the building will be used by SMEs with a focus on enterprise and innovation and will also house lecture theatres and student spaces.

The project combines traditional methods with innovative design and construction techniques and concepts.
The structural frame was constructed using timber sourced from local Thetford Forest. Morgan Sindall collaborated with Cygnum, The Forestry Commission and Thomson Saw Mills to take lumber that isn’t generally used for timber frame construction and use it to compose some of the structural elements of the building.

Gavin Napper, area director for Morgan Sindall said: “People have generally shied away from using local timber in construction, doubting its suitability as a construction material. We wanted to challenge that perception and tap into the great resources which are available locally.

“Due to the area’s climate and soil conditions, timber sourced from East Anglia tends to be fast growing Corsican Pine, which has a number of characteristics that make it more challenging than timber sourced from further afield and so does not lend itself as easily to this type of structural frame. However, our team was committed to using local timber and so we conducted extensive research, which enabled us to sort, condition and grade the Thetford timber which we used to construct the building’s frame.”

Once the timber had been sourced from Thetford Forest, located just 30 miles from the Enterprise Centre site, it was processed and sawn locally.

The installation of highly innovative thatched cassette cladding represents a completely new way of using thatch. Combining traditional craft with modern methods of construction, it is the first time this type of cladding has been used anywhere in the world. It is anticipated that the technique, which comes with a wide range of economic, environmental and safety benefits, could be replicated on many future construction projects - paving the way for thatch to return to its former position as a mainstream construction material.

The pioneering concept of thatch cassettes was conceived in collaboration with project architects, Architype. The process involves fabricating a set of timber cassette modules that are filled with straw in local thatcher’s barns across Norfolk. The prefabricated thatch cassette panels are then transported to site and erected onto the façade of the building as a rainscreen cladding.

The cassettes have been constructed by local joiners, Fox Joinery, and thatched in straw from the Norfolk Suffolk borders by a skilled team led by the Master Thatcher of East Anglia, Stephen Letch.

Thatch cladding and local timber are just some of the green features incorporated into The Enterprise Centre. To date the development is on course to achieve BREEAM Outstanding and Passivhaus certification. It will also have one of the lowest embodied carbon footprints of any building of its size in the UK.

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