Clinton Devon Estates is a forward looking countryside business that manages a large, thriving estate in Devon. Key to the Estate’s future plans was the replacement of their inefficient offices with a brand new headquarters building. The new design needed to allow for expansion as the Estate developed further, but would also recognise the sensitive area in which the Estate is located, embrace sustainable building principles and demonstrate working examples of responsible stewardship.
The location chosen is at the core of the East Devon Estate and so central to its day-to-day activities. However, it is also in the middle of the Grade 1 Listed parkland and at the hub of the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. While the new building had to be modern, flexible and highly adaptable, it also had to be sympathetic to its natural and historical setting. Just gaining planning permission in such a sensitive location proved to be a lengthy challenge.
The LHC team, led by John Baulch, designed a building that satisfied all of Clinton Devon’s criteria without compromising architectural elegance. It is an example of striking contemporary design coupled with excellent environmental credentials. The elliptical form reflects the fluid formations of the surrounding parkland, whilst its size and scale complement the immediate treescape. Due to its earth sheltered base at ground level, it seems to emerge out of the landscape, from a single storey building into a two storey structure as you approach. The ellipse is orientated towards Bicton equestrian arena and enjoys stunning views from the balcony. Internally, the open plan layout and advanced IT infrastructure allows for easy adaptation as needs change.
Simplicity and sustainability were of paramount importance and this is a truly ‘green construction’. Materials are of low embodied energy and from renewable sources wherever possible; recycled materials were included where practical. All materials were chosen for their long life and so have minimal maintenance or replacement cycles. Power consumption is kept to a minimum through maximising natural daylight. Solar control to reduce solar gain and passive cooling replace air conditioning. High levels of insulation, including a sedum roof, keep heating costs low while an innovative wood chip boiler uses renewable fuel and has the potential as a pilot scheme to provide a diversification for the Estate.
Context is inevitably a key issue when a new building is introduced into a precious landscape, but the Rolle Estates Office is at heart a very simple building. Its straightforwardness is its greatest strength. It is a finely crafted structure which won’t strive to be the centre of attention, but will sit within the historic parkland, enhancing it for future generations and providing a catalyst for regeneration.