Architect-designed bat house sets example to building industry

14th September 2009

The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) is urging architects, builders and developers to design for wildlife as well as people.

The call comes as London's first architect-designed home for bats opens this morning (Monday 14 September) at the WWT London Wetland Centre in Barnes, marking the centenary of the birth of its founder, Sir Peter Scott.

Speaking on behalf of the partners, WWT director, Kevin Peberdy said: "The challenge of the next 100 years will be to devise new and imaginative ways for people and wildlife to live together. We need to starting thinking about the impacts on biodiversity whenever and wherever we take down old buildings, put up new ones or make alterations - and adopt designs, materials and methods which are good for wildlife and people."

The building results from a RIBA competition, initiated by the Turner Prize-winning artist, Jeremy Deller and supported by a partnership involving Arts Council England, the Bat Conservation Trust, the Mayor of London, Plus Equals, the RSA Arts and Ecology Centre and WWT, with sponsorship from The Berkeley Group.

The giant white cube (4 metres high) of the Berkeley Bat House features layers of sculptured branches leading to dark, safe roosting spaces inside. It uses sustainable materials and techniques. Among the building's innovative features is its use of Hemcrete, a climate-friendly alternative to concrete, which is made from hemp and lime and 'breathes', so keeping the roosts at the right temperature.

The bat house is based on designs by Jorgen Tandberg, of Oslo, and Yo Murata, of Tokyo, who met while studying at the Architectural Association's school in London. Their design was chosen by expert judges from over 200 international entries.

Advice on the best designs and materials came from the Bat Conservation Trust. Its bats and built environment specialist, Carol Williams, said:

"Many of Britain's bat species are declining and a major factor is the loss of roosts. What we like about the Berkeley Bat House is that it showcases the best in sustainable building materials and provides a potentially valuable new home for bats without compromising on architectural quality or aesthetics. It sets an exciting example for the building industry to follow."

With the house now complete, Jeremy Deller says: "I'm very happy that these amazing creatures have such a stunning and practical place to live in. It makes me wish I was one of them!"

Tony Pidgley, Managing Director of The Berkeley Group, one of the key initiators of the WWT London Wetland Centre and a contributor of £150,000 for the bat house project, said: "Sustainability is part of the fabric of Berkeley and has been for a number of years. We have long recognised the mutual benefits of embracing sustainability for the environment and the communities in which we work. As a leading urban regenerator, we are proud to have been in partnership with the WWT for the last 16 years and to be the sole sponsor of the Berkeley Bat House at the London Wetlands Centre. The building proves that style, comfort and innovation can go hand-in-hand with sustainability. It also makes an eye-catching, iconic, addition to what is already a superb place to visit."

It is hoped that the first bats will move into the Berkeley Bat House this autumn when they begin looking for places to mate and hibernate. At least eight species of bat frequent the 42-hectare WWT London Wetland Centre.

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