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A landmark youth centre features “natural” rainscreen cladding from Steni UK.

Aggregate cladding panels from Steni UK were specified for one of the UK's first operational zero-carbon buildings for a range of reasons ranging from aesthetics to practicality.

Some 600m² of Steni's sparkling white Nature panels, which are manufactured from a fibreglass reinforced polymer composite with a surface of aggregated natural stones, were used as a rainscreen system at the landmark myplace youth centre in the London borough of Havering.

The £4million project is the town's first operational zero-carbon building and one of the first of its kind in the UK. It has delivered a BREEAM Excellent rating with energy efficient features such as natural ventilation and daylighting, high insulation levels and solar panels.

The Steni Nature panels, which were face-fixed with colour-coded screws and the lower levels finished with an anti-graffiti coating, were specified by architects Jacobs for main contractor Apollo Property Services Group for a trio of main reasons.

Project architect Shelley Smith said: “We specified the Steni panels due to their speed of installation, ability to be easily replaced and the fact they are more aesthetic than render. We also needed a panel that was tough and durable for the environment.”

Available in 17 different natural stone colours and up to five different grades including the micro-fine used at myplace, the panels are water, impact and UV-resistant. As a rainscreen system, they are also installed as a dry trade and as such are not subject to the vagaries of the British weather.

Designed in the form of a caterpillar, to represent change and development, with a curved timber and steel roof, the 2,000m² building comprises a dance and music performance hall which has used curved glulam timber beams to create a double-height space. In addition, it features a recording studio, bike workshop, computer suite, juice bar, café, crèche and information service.

Jacobs' design was approved over four others by the centre's youth board who met with Shelley Smith fortnightly to check the project's progress. Its development was the result of the Harold Hill Ambitions consultation where residents said they wanted more for young people to do.

“Havering Council's aspirations for the building were inspirational from the start,” said Shelley Smith. 

Catering for 11 to 21-year-olds but with a particular focus on 14 to 19-year-olds, the centre replaces the former Albemarle centre and was funded by grants from the Big Lottery and Veolia Cleanaway Trust as well as funding from the London Borough of Havering. It is part of the council's multi-million £ Harold Hill Ambitions scheme which aims to regenerate the area


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