The Hunstanton Observatory
A large multi-purpose roll-off roof observatory for public use at Hunstanton, Norfolk.
Having tendered back in early 2022, we were delighted to win the contract to build the new Hunstanton Observatory for Norfolk County Council’s EXPERIENCE project. EXPERIENCE is a European Union funded initiative of EUR 23.3million co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Interreg France (Channel) England Programme. It supports local tourism and hospitality across Norfolk in developing new, low-environmental impact, off-season tourism experiences.
The observatory is designed to support a range of activities including astronomy and astrophotography, but also serving as a base for various other outdoor and nature-related activities. The brief given to us required that it should accommodate up to 15 people, withstand the weathering of its exposed location, and include six outside telescope pads, off-grid solar power and a visitor interpretation panel in addition to the building itself. We pitched a design that would echo the appearance and proportions of the beach huts on nearby Old Hunstanton beach, giving the functional design some local context, and selected HardiePlank’s Boothbay Blue cladding to further respond to the coastal feel of the location.
The early part of this project was spent collaboratiing with the various project stakeholders (Norfolk County Council’s EXPERIENCE team, the Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, Kings Lynn and District Astronomical Society and others) to flesh out the final design and gain the backing of all those involved. We presented plans both virtually and on-site, and provided computer renders of the proposed structure for use as illustrations in local publications and press releases.
In co-operation with our expert Solar partners, Keiba Solutions (see http://www.keibasolutions.co.uk) we designed a special solar panel structure that eschewed the usual rudimentary and unnattractive steel supports for an elegant timber structure that would place the panels at a greater incline than usual (in this case 20 degrees from vertical) in order to maximise their efficiency in the winter months that are so important to astronomers. These combined with 10kWh of battery storage, should guarantee many long nights with sufficient power for telescopes, computers and other important equipment. The system even powers a large 55″ digital display donated by Outsideology to allow astronomers to relay images live from their equipment during public observing sessions.
A planning application was required, along with various impact assessments and supporting information, all of which was written and collated by us and submitted to the local planning authority on behalf of Norfolk County Council. Despite the challenges of no less than five nearby designated sites (2 SSSIs, an AONB, a Ramsar site and a Special Protection Area), we managed the planning application through to a successful determination (with no objections submitted at all) and work started on-site in early 2023. The build took approximately one month, thanks to a great deal of advance planning and very strong co-operation between ourselves and the various project stakeholders.
We were delighted to be present for a ‘soft opening’ in early April 2023, and look forward to seeing it well used as the nights draw in later in the year. For more information, or to book the observatory, see https://hunstantonobservatory.co.uk.
James Hardie’s HardiePlank cladding has proven very popular for our observatories. It’s a fibre-cement cladding designed to have the appearance of painted cedar, and is available in a range of over 30 colours. Its particular qualities of dimensional stability and longevity make it the perfect choice for those wanting a beautifully consistent and long-lasting finish.
Built-In LED Lighting
Our latest observatories feature striking red and white LED light built into the walls! The separately-switched red and white strips are driven by very high quality power supplies and use a Varilight VPro dimmer, allowing them to be dimmed to almost nothing – so you can have as much or as little light as you wish. Building them into the walls means no bulky fittings or obstructions, maximising the space in your observatory.
Our standard interior wall lining is Oriented Strand Board (OSB) – also know as ‘Sterling Board’. We use it because it’s moisture-resistant, very strong and secure. The quick way to break into a building with timber cladding is to pull off a few planks – if you did that with one of our observatories, you’d be met with the same board used to board up empty buildings!
|Overall Size (mm):||5020 (L) x 3040 (W) x 2845 (H)|
|Observatory Size (Internal, mm):||4580 (L) x 2580 (W) x 2000 (H)|
|Warm Room Size (Internal, mm):||Not included|
|Total length including frame (mm):||10020|
|Roof type:||EPDM pitched truss roof|
|Exterior Cladding:||HardiePlank – “Boothbay Blue”|
|Interior Wall Lining:||OSB3|
|Roof Covering:||One-piece EPDM rubber membrane|
|Roof Pitch:||20 degrees|
| Additional Features:||LED strip lighting built into walls|
Off-grid Solar Power system with battery storage
Digital display in custom cabinet
Outside concrete telescope pads
Visitor interpretation panel with giant planisphere
|Location:||Hunstanton Pitch & Putt, Norfolk, UK|
|Approximate Project Cost*:||£ not disclosed|
* Approximate project cost does not include VAT, haulage, groundworks, telescope or pier, and represents what a similar project might cost if completed now, including any improvements to our base specification.