Birmingham Dogs Home

Project Value:

£4.3 million

Client:

Completion:

2015

Key Points

128 re-homing kennels

BREEAM: Excellent

 

Best-practice in animal welfare provision

Birmingham Dogs’ Home, a leading animal welfare organisation which has served the West Midlands region since 1892, appointed Associated Architects to design a new re-homing centre and headquarters building for the charity. Following an extensive search, a site in Solihull was acquired, and construction commenced in September 2014. The completed facility provides 128 kennels, a veterinary suite, office facilities, community meeting rooms, external exercise areas, car parking and accommodation for the centre manager. The design of the building and surrounding landscape reflects best-practice in animal welfare provision and demonstrates an exemplar approach to environmental design. The visual and ecological impact of the development on its green belt setting is exceptionally low.

The specific design response we developed was guided by detailed analysis of the landscape character, ecology and local vernacular building patterns as well as identifiable site constraints. Our objective from the outset was to demonstrate considered sensitivity to the site setting and an exemplary approach to development within the green belt. An integral part of this approach was continual assessment of evolving design proposals using physical and digital modelling techniques.

Effective visual concealment

The completed building is single-storey and is set within a false cutting so that it sits low within the landscape. The important visual relationship between ground and sky, as defined by existing landscape features, remains unaltered. Effective visual concealment is also provided by existing woodland, infrastructure planting and subtle ground modelling around the perimeter of the building. The roof planes are gently pitched to establish a formal relationship between the roof and the ground plane, thus ensuring a seamless transition between building and landscape. This relationship is strengthened by the semi-intensive green roof which incorporates native grass and wildflower species. The linear form of the building extends into the landscape, providing a separating element between public areas and secure animal exercise areas. This means that the extent of perimeter security fencing is minimal. Other materials such as brick and timber reflect the local vernacular.

We tested several alternative plan configurations to establish an optimum layout for the facility. Orientation, circulation, critical adjacencies, flexibility and efficiency were all considered. Four primary kennel blocks, which all contain thirty kennels together with food preparation and laundry areas, are arranged along a linear circulation spine. This means that there are no enclosed courtyard spaces and that the circulation strategy still functions when sections of the complex are closed. Blocks can also be subdivided into two separate zones without compromising the servicing strategy. Internal circulation space is generous and the kennels themselves are enclosed by glazed screens. Each kennel block is provided with a secure external exercise area.

Passive design principles

We implemented passive design principles from the outset. All rooms, including the kennels, benefit from natural light and ventilation. The airtightness and thermal performance of the building envelope is well in excess of Building Regulation requirements and internal temperature stability is assisted by the thermal mass of the green roof. A small photovoltaic array meets some of the electrical energy demand for the facility. As a direct result of these strategies, energy use is very low and operating costs are minimal.

The external planting scheme employs native species to strengthen the landscape character. It has also improved the ecological value of the site by over six ecological species units. The development is predicted to have an overall positive impact on its green belt setting within 15 years.