Coed y Brenin Visitor Centre, Snowdonia National Park

Architype was appointed by Natural Resources Wales to design an exemplar extension to the Coed-y-Brenin Visitor Centre. Set in Snowdonia National Park, the additional 400m2 provides a new bike shop and hire facility, a multi-functional meeting room/cafe overflow area and 24-hour access WC's. The new building links to the original rotunda building by an overhead bridge where additional retail space forms new entrance feature for the Centre. This special project satisfies the clients' ambition to showcase Welsh timber and is the first UK building to be constructed from homegrown Brettstapel.
Planning and Design

Planning and Design Process

Rural context

The location within a National Park required the architecture to reflect the rural landscape. The extension needed to sit lower than the existing building, as not to dominate or detract from the main visitor centre. This was achieved by partially sinking the extension into the landscape to accommodate two floors, and topping it with a flat brown grass roof, camouflaging it into the surrounding woodland. The new entrance extension acts like a limpet, hugging the existing building and protruding from below its eaves. Its shape follows the curve of the external wall of the existing building.

Sympathetic materials

The choice of home-grown timber and sympathetic material specification places the building humbly into the breath-taking landscape. Over time the materials have weathered naturally, and the building has become ever more unassuming in situ. The building is the first Brettstapel constructed building in the UK to be made from from domestically grown and manufactured softwood.

Key Sustainability Points

Passive principles

Whilst embracing innovative technology, for which the building is celebrated, the design also intends to eliminate unnecessary technology and reduce complexity. Architype has employed ‘passive principles’ to ensure good and robust performance that depends on the integrity of the building as a whole before turning to add-on renewables. The design orientates the building for optimised natural daylighting, with solar shading for the summer months. Triple glazed windows and the elimination of thermal bridging prevents heat loss, as well as rigorous insulation made from recycled newspaper which forms an important ‘duvet layer’attributing to the building’s outstanding airtightness, ((0.93a.c.h@50pa). Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR), is the highest performance heat recovery system (in excess of 90%) and severely reduces the need for additional heating during occupation.

Sustainable materials

We ensured that all of the timber used on the Coed-Y-Brenin project came from sustainable, FSC certified sources. We were in the unique position to specify much of the timber from the clients own Welsh woodland, including Western Red Cedar for the balcony and Larch, felled on site for the external cladding. We chose timbers that needed little or no treatment, both to reduce the environmental impact, and help the new building fit harmoniously in the woodland landscape. With all of these timbers locally sourced and processed, the overall carbon footprint was dramatically reduced avoiding excessive shipping distances of heavy materials, which would have otherwise been incurred.

Sustainable technologies

The scheme has been designed to BREEAM Excellent and is on course to achieve this rating. Measures to achieve this have included a sedum roof, specified by a conservation team, sustainable waste drainage, a woodchip boiler, which alone incurs an operational cost of approximately half of the conventional energy price.


“The new visitor centre at Coed-y-Brenin is not only architecturally pleasing, it's also a fantastic example of how local timber can be used to excellent effect.”

Rob Penn, British Writer, Photographer and Broadcaster

Design and Construction Information

Client: Natural Resources Wales (formerly Forestry Commission)

Architect: Architype. For further details of the design and delivery team, please contact the Architect.

Date of Completion: June 2013

Contract value: £1,200,000

Site Area: Gross Internal Floor Area 400 m2

Funding: Natural Resources Wales

Awards: Winner of the Highly Commended Prize for Sustainability at the Constructing Excellence Wales Awards 2015, shortlisted for Eisteddfod Gold Medal 2015