Metsa hits high note with structural panels
Timber specialist Metsä Wood’s cross laminated Kerto-Q product has enabled the nearly complete Sunbeams Music Centre to be built quickly, efficiently and sustainably. Kerto-Q’s inherent strength and large sheet sizes has allowed the building’s key complex features to be built with ease.
In a stunning rural spot near Penrith, the gateway to the Lakes in Cumbria, is the nearly complete Sunbeams Music Centre. Partially embedded into a sloping hillside to minimise its impact on the landscape, the single-storey building will provide a much-needed home for the music charity.
The timber building will provide a permanent music therapy and training base for people with disabilities. The aim of Sunbeams, which was founded by harpist and singer, Annie Mawson in 1992, is to improve the health and well-being of people with special needs through the creative power of music.
“We wanted the building to embody a piece of music coming out of the landscape,” said Will Mawson, Director of Mawson Kerr Architects, the designer of the centre. “The forms of the three main timber pods [on the front elevation] are almost like large musical notes. The way the topography of the site works suits this organic form because there is an embankment that hides the building but also, provides thermal mass behind”.
The three pods are a key feature, ranging in size from 40sq m to 100sq m and providing space for meeting-rooms, therapy rooms and musical performances. The complexity of the shapes meant that the steel-framed structures required a material that performed well. Timber specialist Metsä Wood’s Kerto-Q panels were specified to clad the three pods and roof due to its design flexibility and inherent strength.
“The Kerto-Q product is very sustainable because it’s produced from renewable, raw materials and stores carbon among other things. So for us, it was a win-win scenario because we’re really keen to have very high environmental credentials for the building,” said Will Mawson.
Mike Jordan, Contracts Manager at Thomas Armstrong Ltd said: “The strength and structural characteristics of Kerto-Q were very important. I hadn’t worked with Kerto-Q before, but I found it a very versatile material. The size of the boards available lent itself to constructing large areas with big spans and widths in a way that was both effective and covered the area quickly and simply. It was a very workable and practical system for us to use”.
Each of the pods is faceted with six sides. They also splay outwards from ground level, break halfway and then splay inwards, meaning each of the structures employ quite complicated shapes. The Kerto-Q panels specified for the project included a range of different lengths, the longest 9.6m and two main widths, either 1.8m or 2.5m. Three different thicknesses, from 50mm to 69mm were used, and the panels were bolted and screwed with mechanical fixings on to a steel frame and an acoustic sealant has been placed between for soundproofing.
“We’ve been very pleased with the way the Kerto-Q product has performed. We wanted to clad one facet as far as possible with a single sheet and in some circumstances we were able to achieve that and to have very few joints,” said Mike Jordan.
The Kerto-Q product has also been employed for the deck of the 90sq m roof and an overhanging canopy. The Kerto panels are fixed on top of a lattice of glulam beams and timber columns, which form the roof structure, and finished with a membrane and a green roof covering.
The versatility of the Kerto-Q product also enables the panels to be cut and shaped easily. This characteristic has enabled the architect to use some of the Kerto-Q offcuts for the project’s door panels which has been an added bonus of the product.
“The Kerto-Q sheets have performed brilliantly and they appear to be a real success. We would definitely specify the product again due to its versatility and durability, and we’ve been looking at other applications where we might use it. We now know what we can achieve with the Kerto-Q product and this includes its structural capabilities and its ability to achieve large structural elements with one sheet.
These qualities give us greater design flexibility. When you find products like this it allows you to push design horizons a bit further again and I don’t think we’ve pushed the product anywhere near its limit,” said Will Mawson.