New London Architecture

Sports hall designers make play for more timber use

Tuesday 14 June 2022

David Taylor

Editor, NLQ and New London Weekly

The project team behind the King’s Cross Sports Hall have given a thumbs up to the idea of ‘mainstreaming’ the use of timber in more projects, not least in the quest for net zero carbon.

Edward Marchand of architect Bennetts Associates kicked off the webinar - a technical project in practice look at the Argent scheme, explaining that ‘designing adaptability for change of use was part of the process from day one’ and for multiple lives. 

But the entire project had showed the potential of timber structures and upscaling and making that mainstream was the principle he had learned, something Marchand is taking on to his next project. ‘It also made us think a lot harder about not wasting material’, he said. ‘It’s a very slim design, a very efficient design, so everything was considered multiple times before adding anything to it’.
Francesco Ferrari of Arup presented on the challenges of working with CLT and overview of its structure, which he described as being like a tree in terms of how it grew out of the ground to avoid detrimental effects to three Victorian tunnels running below the site. The solution was a building that was as light as possible with CLT, despite issues over fire and water. ‘Timber is a great material, and we should definitely use more in buildings, but it does come with specific challenges’, said Ferrari. 

Christian Clues of BAM said the ‘modest but mighty’ building had probably proved slightly more expensive than a normal building primarily due to the methodology rather than material used. But his main learning from the project, however, was to do with moisture, given issues that arose in the construction of the hall’s sawtooth roof, where drainage proved difficult. Panels and roofslabs should ideally come to site with waterproof membranes already applied, he suggested. ‘That is the key’, said Clues. ‘Even Argent the developer have taken that on board from what we’ve suggested and they’ve mandates that on any further timber developments they’re doing in Tottenham and Brent Cross. That’s the key thing – keep the water out!’

Finally, Chris Charlton of Stride Treglown said his practice had learned a lot about timber as delivery architect, including about its simplicity and potential, as well as its use in an interesting bespoke staircase on the scheme. ‘It’s a nice contrast to what’s done elsewhere in the project, but it gives you a really good idea of what can be done’.


David Taylor

Editor, NLQ and New London Weekly



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