Dinton Pastures Activity Centre – a Net Zero Carbon design

HLM Architects were asked by Wokingham Borough Council to create a community centred and modern building to replace the old and dated Activity Centre. HLM’s design is inspired by the centre’s beautiful and natural setting and supported the Council’s commitment to be carbon neutral by 2030.

Dinton Pastures 1A

Community at the heart of design

Celebrating the natural lakeside surroundings, the modern £2.4million scheme provides educational and leisure facilities for the local community in Dinton Pastures County Park for adventures on water and land. The new centre includes an activity hall, adults and children’s changing areas, dual-use teaching and conference spaces, and a coffee shop opening on to a spectator terrace overlooking the lake and park to cater for all the needs of the users and visitors.

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Modular approach

HLM worked with Reds10 to complete the structure offsite, with the facade applied later on-site. The designed is noted as it doesn’t look like the often maligned rectangular ‘shipping’ container shape which comes to mind when off-site production is mentioned. The size and presence of the two-storey building is specifically designed to be in harmony with the surrounding landscape and sits like a hidden oasis nestled between the treeline and shoreline.

75 per cent of the building was completed offsite; 16 modular frames were built and then transported to Dinton Pastures Country Park and then lifted into place. The facades were then added to the substructure on site. The modular approach significantly reduces the carbon emissions in the construction process.


EQUITONE was used on the ground-level of the building. The high-density characteristic of EQUITONE worked well for the high footfall areas that will be getting a lot of contact, and where durability is crucial.

The colour was considered a sympathetic complement to the FSC-certified Siberian larch chosen for the upper building, which is designed to weather overtime and blend in further with setting.

Another important consideration was that EQUITONE is naturally resistant to many living organisms (fungi, bacteria, insects, vermin, etc.) and requires no harsh chemicals to clean.

Dinton Pastures 2

Energy positive building

A range of sustainability features have been fully integrated in the design:

  • Windcatchers on the roof provide natural ventilation to the large communal spaces within the centre and their use removes the requirement for mechanical ventilation of these high-occupancy spaces.

  • Air source heat pumps provide heat and hot water to the centre and Photovoltaic panels on the roof and within the car park provide for the electrical requirements of the centre and will allow the centre to become a net exporter of energy to the national grid.

“Dinton Activity Centre was an excellent project to work on and one I am very passionate about. The natural elements of the location and the Net Zero Carbon requirement by the client, Wokingham Borough Council, was a great challenge. Every part of the design was looked at in detail for sustainability standards, especially our specified materials and the location they would be built. The building has had so many accolades already I hope that other Councils and architects can use it to support their vision of intrinsic sustainability.”

Alex Pullin, HLM Architects

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“What a wonderful project to be specified on! Working with Alex at HLM Architects and Red10 to make the design possible was great. Whenever anyone had a question (or issue – there’s always one or two) I was able to get right on it and find a solution. EQUITONE is a great choice for sustainable public buildings as it’s so easy to use and install and provides the longevity through its high density. No harsh detergents or chemicals are required to clean or maintain it, so it’s perfect for a site like Dinton Pastures where lots of families are around.”

Roslyn Hypolite-Achom, EQUITONE Specification Manager

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Leading the way

Even before completion, the new centre was being used as a case study to help educate how local authorities across the country can develop Net Zero Carbon Buildings. The design is also picking up numerous award nominations.

Awards shortlisted for:

  • British Construction Industry Awards: Net Zero Carbon Project of the Year

  • Offsite Awards: Architect of the Year

  • Offsite Awards: Leisure Project of the Year

  • Offsite Awards: Best Use of Volumetric Technology

  • Offsite Awards: BIM / Digital Construction Award