The Ecology Centre


Building owner/client:

The Ecology Centre

Architect or lead designer:

Stuart Hannah of ADD

Local Authority Area:


Nominating Body:

Royal Burgh of Kinghorn Community Council

Project Description

The Ecology Centre is a successful local charity that provides ground breaking environmental education, volunteering and conservation activities that benefit both our community and the environment. In 2014, they purchased 5 acres of land on the shores of Kinghorn Loch and in 2015 developed a purpose-built Centre for their work, thanks to funding from the Big Lottery and others. The site is idyllic, overlooking the loch and surrounded by hills with the River Forth and Fife’s coastline only a mile away. This is a high profile location, much loved and used by local people and so development needed to be approached with great sensitivity. The project brief was to provide space for activities, a building that would sit quietly in the landscape and that would also follow ecological principles, maximising energy efficiency and using natural, recycled or recyclable materials. These objectives were achieved with a stunning building created and designed by local architect Stuart Hannah. The long, low profile of the building takes its architectural reference from a nearby boathouse. The building sits perfectly on the loch side nestled comfortably among surrounding hills. A natural appearance is achieved using Scottish larch cladding and a green sedum roof. The building is extremely energy efficient using the Beattie Passivehaus accredited system. This was a timber stick build with high performance insulation and top spec Nordan triple glazing. Workmanship by local firm John Smart and Sons was excellent achieving a remarkable airtightness score of 0.16. The Energy Performance Certificate gives the building an A rating with a score of 7. The building benefits from solar photovoltaics to generate electricity, a solar hot water system and a mechanical ventilation heat recovery unit to minimise energy use. Workshop and storage space has been created to the rear of the building by converting 7 former shipping containers. These have been linked, fitted with doors and donated windows, insulated and wired to provide usable space. A courtyard space between the main building and the containers provides a covered walkway on the roof upon which are mounted the solar panels. Personality has been added with a mosaic made of recycled glass and ceramics created by staff and volunteers, cycle racks made of oak logs (made by a local social enterprise) and ornamental gates designed by staff and made by our local blacksmith. Volunteers played an active role throughout the build process. The building perfectly accommodates all the activities the Centre runs and admirably demonstrates the principles of energy efficiency, use of natural materials and recycling. Considerable effort has been made to share this knowledge with many visitors enjoying tours of the building and further information is made available on The Ecology Centre’s website;

Supporting Statement

The building is innovative in the use of Passivehaus techniques for a community building and also the extraordinary energy efficiency ratings achieved. This, along with the conversion of shipping containers, energy saving technology and the nature of the organisation make for a building that is both innovative and sustainable. The project created the space, over time our volunteers will undoubtedly develop it to make it even more distinctive, quirky and unique - a special place to visit. Community volunteers were involved in developing the brief, selecting architects, choosing fixtures and fittings, monitoring progress, converting shipping containers, landscaping and contributing artwork. The work of The Ecology Centre is well established delivering positive benefits to the health, wellbeing and education of those they work with. The site is open 24/7 and is well used by local people for walking, fishing, picnics, barbeques and wildlife watching. All will benefit from the facilities in the new building and the development of the Centre and its grounds with educational exhibits, events and wildlife habitats. The impacts of the Ecology Centre are: enhancement of the natural environment with a building that fits quietly but well into the landscape, a building with minimal energy requirements, practical demonstration of ecological building principles, creation of a bespoke space for the activities of The Ecology Centre in education, conservation and volunteering that has proven benefits for the health, wellbeing and education of individuals and the wider community. In early 2014, there was a real risk that the organisation could fold as the lease on their previous premises was coming to an end and they faced becoming homeless. Happily, the site at Kinghorn Loch was purchased and funding secured for new premises. This presented a series of difficulties and challenges that were overcome. There were some concerns that it might be difficult to obtain planning approval but in the event, having put considerable effort into consultation in the design phase, our community (and Council) were very supportive of the proposals and consent was granted within 4 months of application. The design phase and building phase progressed well with relationships between key partners remaining very positive throughout. The high quality of the build is a wonderful testament to good planning and execution of the project.