AFTER GLOW – An Evolving Destination

Juice Architects are delighted to have successfully achieved detailed town planning approval for global developer Lend Lease for a new sustainably designed 110 bed hotel.

Appointed in March 2011 the key element of the brief was that the hotel should achieve BREEAM ‘Excellent’ as a minimum, and aim to target ‘Outstanding’ in line with Lend Lease’s sustainability criteria.

Situated within the 55 acre Bluewater estate, in Greenhithe, Kent, the hotel is to become part of the 1.67m sqft retail leisure destination, in support of the new £60m venue - Glow - which opened in November 2011.

This planning approval by Dartford City Council signifies the next phase in the Evolution of the UK’s leading Retail Destination to ensure the key commercial success criteria:

  • increased footfall
  • increased “dwell” time
  • a viable evening economy

“It is very exciting to see Bluewater evolving once again. .... broadening Bluewater's already extensive offer, not only for visitors from throughout the South East, but for the immediate local community.”

Gareth Johnson, MP Dartford

Sensitive Natural Environment

The site is located close to the north eastern edge of the Bluewater estate, accessed off the perimeter road. It is nestled between the existing lake and chalk escarpment of the former quarry which rises some 40 metres above ground level.

It has excellent public transport connections and a variety of interconnected pedestrian access routes including a footpath that runs around the lake affording a pleasant walking environment to enjoy the landscape, wildlife and wetland habitat. All routes are step free and afford access to people of differing mobilities.

The site topography is generally flat with the principle level change being between the water level of the lake and the surrounding landscape which is of a very high quality incorporating wooded areas, specimen trees and shrubs with grassland.

The general composition of the site is made up of four key elements:

  • the lake
  • the chalk escarpment
  • the soft verdant landscape
  • the existing coach park hard standing

Master Plan: Approach to the Design

The overall site is greater in area than that required for a hotel with its associated car parking and landscape and therefore we identified multiple phases for optimal site development and future integration of uses. The existing landscape and views to and from the lake are considered key assets and important in informing the overall master plan.

The hotel is located to the western portion of the site leaving the eastern zone to accommodate the remaining coach park which is a current requirement.

It is also orientated as close to a north - south axis as possible to reduce solar gain as part of the passive design, with the bedroom windows principally set on the east and west elevations.

The Bar Café and reception will be located to the south to enjoy the aspect across the lake.

In investigating optimum options we developed a design that minimises it’s environmental impact on the site and the immediate natural environment. The passive design approach sought to minimise the energy consumption of the building in use and in consequence to reduce its carbon footprint.

Sustainable Opportunities - Principles of Passive Design

We have identified many Sustainable Opportunities to achieve the ideal passive design taking into account the site and the optimum orientation.

Our design development has optimised these opportunities, some of which have been included and some discounted as follows:

  • To manage solar gain the building is orientated on a north-south access reducing exposure of glazed windows and solar gain during midday sun.
  • The windows are also set deep into the overall thickness of the wall construction to create additional shading, such that there is little need for additional brise soleil to the eastern and southern windows.
  • The building is designed to utilise natural ventilation to keep the occupants cool and reduce the need for additional plant with consequent reduced energy use. Similarly the building is naturally lit throughout apart from the internal bathroom pods.
  • Renewable energies have been reviewed and a Combined Heat & Power boiler has been incorporated.
  • Various renewable energy sources have been considered including wind, biomass and biofuels including Waste Vegetable Oil (WVO).
  • Consideration has also been given to the plant size and potential benefits of exporting energy and heated water to the estate.
  • The use of the lake as a geothermal store has been discounted as the lake is shallow and has a relatively small thermal mass. The lake is also a very sensitive part of the current wetland habitat and is controlled under licence through the Environmental Agency in terms of quality of water and discharge quantity.
  • Solar gain water heaters have been reviewed but discounted on the basis of opting for CHP boilers.
  • Rain water harvesting for irrigation is being evaluated and water run-off is being collected via interceptors before being naturally filtered through the enzymic action of the reed beds adjacent the lake.
  • To reduce the embodied energy of the building’s components, timber frame construction and prefabricated wall panelling is proposed with a small area of construction being concrete where the thermal mass will contribute towards the thermal balance and dynamics of the building.
  • The building is clad with a horizontal timber rainscreen with high levels of insulation behind a breather membrane.

Detailed Design Development

As part of the detailed analysis of the site a number of extensive surveys were undertaken to better understand the existing habitat, including;

  • Ecological Scoping Survey to identify designated areas of ecological significance; assess the potential for presence of protected species and species of principal conservation importance; recommend further survey as necessary and potential enhancements; likely significance of ecological impacts on proposed development; identify potential ecological mitigation and compensation requirements.
  • Acoustic Survey to determine the existing background noise in line with PPG24 Guidance
  • Arboricultural Impact Assessment to assess impact of development and any potential enhancements

In seeking to minimise the impact of the footprint of the new building we have proposed a building of 5 storeys including the ground floor. The height of the building’s form and ratio of height to length produces a proportion that is well balanced and one that sits comfortably against the back drop of the chalk escarpment.

The new building and its supporting car parking and access routes are located as much as possible on the existing hard standing of the coach park thereby further reducing the impact on the existing soft landscape and wetland with only a small area of landscape being disturbed.

Sympathetic Materials Palette

The total material palette has been selected to be sympathetic, natural and quite restrained, in keeping with reducing the impact of the building on its natural environment throughout the changing seasons. A timber rainscreen with in part a light coloured render form the upper levels whilst brick, being more robust is proposed to the ground floor.

Additional Note

In December 2011 Bluewater beat Stratford City as top UK Shopping Destination in the ‘The Going Shopping - The Definitive Guide to Shopping Centres Research Survey’ which analysed more than 900 schemes in the UK, researching footfall, size, relative attractiveness of shops and facilities as key indicators to evaluate the centres.

Design Team:

Juice Architects Architects and Lead Consultant
BDP BREEAM & Service Consultants
GVA Town Planning Consultant
Waterman Infrastructure Services
Cyril Sweett Cost Consultant
Peter Brett Highways