Conkers Discovery Centre

Conkers Discovery Centre


This award-winning attraction in the heart of National Forest is located within a reclaimed mining area which is surrounded by a mature woodland environment. The primary objective of the project was to create a fun learning and discovery centre that centered on the woodland setting and had environmental and sustainable principles at its heart. Backfilling of the former opencast pits and remediation of ground pollution was necessary prior to construction work commencing.

The project team developed a building that utilised natural building products and the natural environment to provide solutions. This included an 80-metre diameter laminated timber frame for the building superstructure, stone and timber cladding, geothermal heating, reed bed effluent treatment, and surface water balancing ponds created within the earthworks backfilling operation. These doubled as wildlife incubators that enhanced the learning aspect of the centre. A substantial car parking area was necessary and we therefore employed sustainable drainage solutions to filter hydrocarbon contaminants before discharging it to the balancing ponds.

Key Challenges

The ground investigation revealed underlying geology of a very variable nature. We worked with the architect and landscape designer to re-locate the building from its original proposed position such that it could be founded on natural ground and enable the use of traditional shallow foundations rather than having to utilise expensive ground improvement techniques. Due to the presence of land gas, a passive gas protection system was incorporated within the foundation construction.

The 600-seat external amphitheatre was itself a civil engineering challenge. Whilst it is a simple earthworks exercise to create the 'bowl' shape, the real challenge was how do so without generating polluted arisings that would need to be removed off-site, which was successfully resolved. We then worked with the landscape designer to utilise naturally occurring stone products to create an inviting and stimulating creative space.


Peter Davies

Peter Davies
Business Unit Manager
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