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Designing in sustainability

Highly Commended in the Hertfordshire Building Futures Design Excellence Award category 2009

This new indoor recreational facility is in the heart of the local Bennetts End community in Hemel Hempstead and provides 10,500m² of floorspace made up of 7,400m² of indoor ski slopes, 2,300m² of amenity space and 800m² of retail space on a site of approximately 2.99ha.

The footprint of the building covers 8,850m² or 30% of the site area. There is a warm and cold side to the building. The cold side snow facility includes two slopes, a large recreational slope and a smaller training slope. It is externally clad with profiled steel sheets with contrasting curved column covers and fascias to create texture and shading to break up the façade of such a large building. The warm side amenity building contains the main operational facilities in addition to a shop and café. This side is externally clad with untreated larch, colour changing rock fibre panels and glass.


A considerable effort was made to ensure the construction of the building was as sustainable as possible, including using A and A+ rated materials. The building also has efficient heat recovery systems and a sedum green roof covering the whole building. 

Fitting the building sustainably on site, with the earth slopes, a large car park and suitable access was a difficult challenge. Early attempts resulted in steep fire access routes, huge retaining walls and the unsustainable import of 21,000m³ of soil. With the use of 3D CAD a large number of configurations were tested before the right solution was found, which reshaped the earth contours and reduced the excess spoil to less than a third of the original.




The development of the site was a long process.  Work started in 2005 and was completed in 2009. Throughout the process McAlpine worked closely with the local authority and the community, keeping them informed through newsletter updates. A member of the McAlpine Design Group also taught children of a local primary school about sustainability, recycling and environmental issues.  


Project team:

Client - Hemel Snowcentre Ltd

Architect - Sir Robert McAlpine Design Group