Redcar Leisure and Community Heart (RLCH) is a community facility incorporating leisure, civic and business functions, creating a new landmark for the people of Redcar, in North East England. Here the BuroHappold engineers who designed the structure describe the challenges involved in its construction and how it feels to be shortlisted for The Structural Awards 2015.

Engagement with the local community was an essential part of the way we developed the Community Heart, which would be a new Civic and Community Hub for Redcar, so it was critical to be as consultative as possible throughout the design, construction and operation of the project, and to think locally wherever we could.

As a result we’re proud to be part of a scheme where 830 local students visited the site during the construction process and provided 72 weeks of work experience to local 15-17 year olds.  In fact 80% of the labour we used came from within 40 miles of the project.  This was absolutely vital to the project as it was the flagship building in a major redevelopment of the area.

A large leisure and community facility invariably has a wide variety of uses and each of these will make different demands of the supporting structure.  We were also aware of a real responsibility to maximise economy, while maintaining a feeling of quality construction throughout, helping to create a sense of uniqueness and local pride.  A successful design would therefore have to involve close collaboration with the client. 

At Redcar we were lucky to work with a very forward-thinking client, resulting in a number of innovative design solutions, like the large, column-free spaces (which can be separated by moving partitions, creating a highly adaptable space) and the high specification, exposed, precast concrete slabs, which improve the environmental sustainability and energy use of the building.  The raised, unbraced, column-free space of the debating chamber is a clear focal point of the structure.

RLCH has replaced tired and derelict buildings with a vibrant, welcoming space in the centre of the town, playing a big part in local regeneration. It’s also given an important economic boost to the town, through job creation and star attractions like ‘Flow Rider’, which attracts visitors from far afield.

There have been some really positive statements from residents and users since the building opened, especially how great it is to have family facilities in such an accessible location.

One visitor said: “The construction is absolutely awe-inspiring. I have watched it going up from a hole in the ground, so to see it now is magnificent. Redcar is lucky to have this.”

Visit The Structural Awards website to find out about our other shortlisted entries.

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