Weiss Architecture Studio

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Cornwall Air Ambulance Trust

Situated close to Newquay Airport, the new CAAT operations building provides a 590sqm hangar, high quality offices, crew facilities and visitor spaces all with high standards of sustainability to achieve a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating.

In 2010 Chapman Architects won an invited competition to design the CAAT new operations building. The CAAT were seeking to provide an excellent working environment, enable closer working between the charity and operational staff, and promote the aims and values of the organisation.

The Brief recognised the long term value of a sustainable, environmentally responsible development and the importance that it would play in securing funding and reducing long term running costs. As a result, BREEAM ‘Excellent’ was targeted from the outset.

The approach to combining both office and aeronautical / medical uses within one building was to understand the processes and functional relationships that allow efficient running of the service. A key area of which was the sequence of events that take place when the operational team receive a call out and when they return to the base and must return their equipment and helicopter to a clinically hygienic standard.

Once these relationships had been clarified they were used to positively inform the layout and materiality of the building. The environmental approach to the building supports these requirements and seeks to minimise energy use from the outset whilst enhancing comfort for staff and visitors.

In terms of construction, the building reflects the integration of the Operational and Charity elements of the Trust. The steelwork of the hangar creates the large clear span required to accommodate the helicopters and is clad in corrugated fibre cement panels, a robust and locally used material.

In contrast the more intimate spaces of the Charity Wing are constructed primarily from timber studwork and rendered Hemcrete. These materials suit the smaller spans and have a much reduced environmental impact.

The materials chosen reflect their purpose and seek to integrate the building into the rural Cornish locale.

In the process of bringing the building to completion, Chapman Architects was able to support an accelerated programme to meet dates for land purchase and submission of the application for ERDF Convergence Funding. The requirements of security and the review of impact on the Newquay Airport’s landing systems were also handled efficiently and allowed the project to develop quickly but with risk minimised.