by Michael Cockram
Just north of London, off the M25 highway, a single large wind turbine reaches into the air and turns steadily above the bucolic English countryside. The turbine serves to generate power, and also as an emblem of the headquarters of the wind energy company Renewable Energy Systems (RES), set among the hedge rows and rolling hills of Hertfordshire.
The RES facility is housed in a refitted historic agricultural building — a chicken house, to be exact. Since its construction in the 1930s by the Ovaltine Company, Beaufort Court has always been something of a novelty. Its unusual horseshoe-shaped plan grew from an idea of a happier and more hygienic home for the birds, a precursor to today's notions about free-range chickens. The building lay derelict from its closure in the 1960s until it was bought by RES in 2000.
RES set ambitious goals for the adaptive reuse project. The facility had to have net-zero greenhouse emissions; all energy for the buildings had to be generated on site using renewable resources; and the new scheme needed to function well as both a commercial office space and an exhibition and visitor center.
The original Arts-and-Crafts-style building was designed to emulate the country house that French King Louis XVI built for his queen, Marie Antoinette. But it was also formed with solar orientation in mind. The thin U shape allowed for good solar access, daylighting, and ventilation so that the building needed no heat to keep the young pullets healthy and fresh in their "sun parlors."
These solar and daylighting features translated nicely into the environmental goals of RES and the project's designers, Studio E Architects. But the architects also faced substantial challenges, including working with preservation authorities on the conservation of the original structure.
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Playful tower structures flank each side of the courtyard at Beaufort Court in rural Hertfordshire, United Kingdom. Studio E Architects kept the entry piece low-profile with a subtle use of contemporary materials and detailing.
Photo: Courtesy Renewable Energy Systems (RES)
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Beaufort Court, the headquarters of Renewable Energy Systems, employs a variety of onsite strategies for heating, cooling, and electricity production, including a wind turbine, a heat sink, a solar shed, and a biomass crop that is burned for heat.
Photo: Courtesy RES
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