Facilities Management or refurbishment winner: Daniel Connal Partnership for YMCA Norfolk Community Hub

Winner: Daniel Connal Partnership for YMCA Norfolk Community Hub, a disused former British Legion social centre that was transformed to provide services in a deprived, under-resourced area.

Built in 1979, Jubilee Hall on Aylsham Road, Norwich (Mile Cross Ward) closed its doors in 2014. Mile Cross is in the top 10% of deprived areas nationally. The Norwich Economic Strategy states that it has the most intense concentration of unemployment in the city, resulting in corresponding poor attainment for children. YMCA Norfolk saw the potential presented by the dilapidated building and, following comprehensive refurbishment, it reopened as the YMCA Community Hub in 2021. Creating 36 new jobs (site supervisors, catering, soft-play and nursery staff and an HR officer), the space includes a community café, an indoor soft-play centre, an outdoor play area and 90-place Ofsted registered nursery. Additionally, there are hireable multi-purpose spaces used by local youth/community groups, local businesses and for private events. Since opening in April 2021, despite the impact of Covid-19, the Community Hub has welcomed more than 20,000 visitors and the nursery is fully subscribed. Income generated from the new facility is reinvested by the YMCA to further expand and enhance the services it offers at the Hub as a sustainable business model.

The YMCA Community Hub is an impressive and highly successful refurbishment project which has saved, repurposed and improved a disused building, delivering a multi-purpose, inclusive and versatile space for the benefit of the local community.

The Norfolk Community Hub is a true asset to local people, bringing attractive social spaces, childcare facilities and jobs into the community

The existing building

With the building listed as an asset of community value, the team worked hard with social service providers to research and fully understand the community need for adults and children in the area. Close consultation took place with neighbouring Edmund Bacon Court, St Luke’s Church, residents of Edmund Bacon Lodge (an adult care facility) and the councillors for the area. The Childcare Sufficiency Department at Norfolk County Council was consulted to determine childcare needs.

From the first site visit it was clear that, although dilapidated, the existing building had character, including elements that the design team were keen to retain. One example is the floor-to-ceiling glazing. This area was to be divided creating two rooms, with a decision made on which of the new spaces would benefit from the glazing. Design introduced an angled internal wall that referenced the charm of the original building, also creating an element of play within the new nursery rooms. A circular window filters light from the glazing to inner spaces, with another window at lower child height allowing youngsters to peek through into the next room to see what’s going on.


Judges’ comments

This isn’t just about taking an old concrete block and bringing it bang up to date, which is laudable in itself. This project places as much emphasis on social value as it does environmental factors. It is an excellent example of the social value toolkit approach and the team at Daniel Connal Partnership should be immensely proud of their high standards to deliver a valuable asset for the community.


This design process was also applied to the soft-play area. Structural engineer investigations resulted in useable space being reclaimed from the ceiling void in the standard height room to create a soft-play centre that extends 20ft in the air. A spark of inspiration turned the removal of a mature unsafe tree in the nursery garden into a natural reading circle from the stump and branch sections.

Sustainability

This project has sustainability at its core by repurposing a disused building, avoiding demolition and thereby retaining embodied carbon. To optimise energy performance, all retained windows were upgraded to double glazing, the heating system was improved with roof and wall insulation upgraded. Acoustic panels were utilised to ensure noisy areas didn’t impact on other parts of the building. The original ventilation system relied on mechanical ducting with asbestos joints running throughout the building; these were removed and fresh airflow was introduced to reduce reliance on mechanical ventilation and breathe new life into the building. But this refurbishment project is also sustaining the community by breathing new life into a valuable community asset. It delivers relevant multi-generational services, supporting families, giving young people a better start, providing attractive social spaces and jobs in the local community.

For more, visit bit.ly/DanielConnalYMCA

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