Build update 6 January 2020
The Discovery Centre is now watertight. The Sweet Chestnut cladding work has been completed vertically with just the overhang detailing to complete which is underway. Works on the roof are complete, external doors are installed, scaffolding has been removed and concrete finishing works are in progress. Inside, both walls and ceilings have been insulated and boarded, and doors have been installed. In December, plastering was started and, as this has dried, decorating has begun. The insulation and underfloor heating has been installed ready for the concrete floor to be poured very shortly. Following this, mechanical and electrical 'final fix' (lighting, switches, sockets, IT, kitchen, toilets and plant room) will begin.
What's the roof made of?
A wooden roof cassette forms the structure, then there's a 'vapour control' layer, 130mm of insulation, followed by a single-ply membrane, which gives the finish and weather proofing.
What happens when there are very high tides?
The Discovery Centre has been designed to cope with the high tides that periodically cover the ground where the building is located, and indeed sometimes flow over the road. The floor of the building is raised 1.2m up above the road level so that it will remain unaffected by the ebb and flow of the sea. What we saw happen at a particularly high tide, the Spring Tide, amply demonstrates the way the centre is integrated with the natural environment.
With so much glass, might birds not crash into the windows?
Welfare of wildlife is a key concern and has been taken into consideration from the earliest stages of design. The architects considered the location and height of the building in relation to the usual bird flight paths and incorporated tinted glass to minimise risk of collisions. The contractors have added tape crosses to the glass panels while the build is in progress. Based on reported experience from buildings of a similar design, we don’t anticipate any issues once the build is complete, but will be monitoring the glass closely so that extra safety measures can be put in place if needed.
Why is there a high-ceilinged corridor in the centre of the interior?
It has windcatchers on top, which create natural ventilation for the building.
How will you keep the windows clean?
They can be cleaned in the usual way, with extendable poles, the sort that are used for houses and businesses by window cleaners. You can't use the "self cleaning" glass for this building. That needs rain to actually fall on the glass, which is less likely happen at the Discovery Centre because of the roof overhang. More about the glass for the Discovery Centre here.
Why have you used concrete and steel?
A building of this type and dimensions, built on a shingle substrate, needs robust foundations. The architect's advice is that this is best achieved with a concrete base supported by piles. We are seeking to make the building as environmentally sustainable as possible, with the chestnut cladding and use of natural light and ventilation. The Discovery Centre is being made using locally sourced, Sweet Chestnut cladding. The design includes photovoltaic panels covering half the roof. The building and surrounding landscaping will provide many places for wild plants and animals to live. The ventilation will be passive and the heating will utilise air sourced heat pumps.
Is the building process affecting access to the reserve?
The reserve is remaining open for the whole of the build, but there is a diverted route of a two metre wide, pedestrian walkway at the same height as the road, on the right hand side of the road as you go towards the sea. This still provides access for wheelchairs, buggies and bicycles. Hoardings alongside the building site display information for visitors.
Where are Baxall staff and equipment based?
There is an enclosed section of the carpark fenced off where their portacabins are based for the duration of the build. They need to be near services such as electricity. The Coastguard have been really helpful, allowing Baxall to connect to their services, and we also appreciate the support of Icklesham Parish Council
Is there be much noise and disruption?
Large scale movements of vehicles will be minimised, but there will inevitably be more traffic than at present.
Won't it disturb the birds?
They are coping very well. They quickly learn to adapt and tolerate noises once they've heard them a few times.
When will the work finish?
Baxall hope to finish by the end of February 2020, ready for the official opening in spring 2020 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the reserve, but we will continue to issue updates.
What’s happening to waste material? Will building materials get blown about if it’s windy?
Baxall will be removing waste material from site regularly, and they are aware of the geographical challenges of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, so will be taking great care. Material from the site will be transported to a registered waste recycling centre.
Will the village drainage system be able to cope?
The building will be connected to the main sewer, with a strategy that has been agreed with Southern Water.
Is there any overnight security?
Access through the site is now closed to all traffic. Additional warning signs have been installed onto the main security gate and site fencing.
The site is also covered by CCTV cameras that are observed 24/7.
There will be timelapse photography and other means of recording the build process. Any use of drones will have been approved by the Reserve Manager.
Why is the Discovery Centre being built?
At the moment, we don’t have adequate facilities for the large numbers of annual visitors we welcome on the reserve, including parties of schoolchildren. The same is true for staff and volunteers. The nature reserve is vast, and it needs somewhere accessible, that offers shelter in all weathers, and has facilities including toilets, all of which enable everyone to enjoy our reserve, all year round.
Won't having a visitor centre cause problems with traffic and parking?
Parking for the reserve will be directed to the existing car parks in Rye Harbour, Rye and Winchelsea Beach. The brown tourism signs direct people to Rye Harbour. The car park and toilets there are run by Icklesham Parish Council. There would be potential greater capacity in the car park if it was white lined. We appreciate that at peak times there are too many cars for the parking spaces available in all of Rother District and we are working with the Sussex Community Rail Partnership to promote visiting by rail on our website and in our literature.
How can we get more information?
Information Centre volunteers are getting regular updates from Senior Site Manager Matt Fothergill.
You can sign up for monthly e-news, follow us on Twitter @RyeHarbour_NR, follow the project on Baxall’s Twitter @Baxall_RyeHarbourDiscovery, and keep an eye on this website ryeharbourdiscoverycentre.org.uk
The email address for Baxall for this project is email@example.com
The email address for the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve staff team is RHNRoffice@sussexwt.org.uk
Thanks to Stuart Conway for the drone photo of the site, taken April 2019 www.stuartconway.com