About the building and grounds


The Singleton Environment Centre in Ashford, Kent, is a haven of peace just three miles from a busy town centre, international train station and the M20 motorway. The eco-friendly centre is operated by Singleton Spaces on behalf of Ashford Borough Council.

The Centre has been built with the environment in mind from start to finish. It doesn’t stop there either, the running of the centre is done with environmental best practice at its heart.

Building materials – local, recycled, natural and toxin-free

Singleton Environment Centre 2008

Photo from 2008

  • IBA (recycled glass) has been used to surround the pipes in the building andevent them from cracking or being damaged while they are in the ground
  • Road way is made up of recycled materials like old tarmac. Recycled sharp sand has been used underneath the road as binding. Recycled tyres have been used to surface roads and paths
  • The roof is made from recycled aluminium drinks cans
  • All the timber used for the building has been sourced from sustainable local forests and has been organically treated.
  • The structural posts on the front of the building are made from solid larch.
  • The workshops and boiler room have been made from five joined together timber clad second-hand shipping containers.  The containers have been clad in untreated oak meaning the oak has dried naturally without fuel being used to dry the wood.
  • Reclaimed bricks were used in the outside walls. The windows are designed so that low winter sun warms the building, while overhanging eaves provide shade in summer

Heating, Insulation & Lighting

Singeton Environment Centre 2008

Photo from 2008

  • The orientation of the building enables both passive solar heating in the winter to make the most of sunlight for heating and good solar protection against overheating in the summer
  • There is good natural ventilation to all principal spaces particularly to cool the building in summer. The ‘Windcatcher’ ventilation system enables cool air to be drawn through the building ‘passively’ in the summer, avoiding the need for mechanical ventilation. Windcatcher technology provides natural ventilation without any moving parts. Using compartmentalised vertical vents, fresh air is brought into the room and stale warm air expelled using the natural effects of the wind
  • A heavyweight spine wall has been built and as well as acting as a physical divide between the key spaces, it acts as a thermal mass which will retain heat in winter and reduce cooling needs in summer (absorbing the sun’s heat to be released slowly later). The wall is made from ‘Sumatec’ blocks, which are compressed earth bricks and, unlike traditional bricks, do not need to be fired. This significantly reduces harmful CO2 emissions. The thermal wall is also covered with lime.
  • Hemp mixed with recycled cotton has been used on all the internal walls to improve the natural insulation of the building.
  • The centre uses a wood pellet boiler for heating, with the coppiced wood fuel sourced within the UK and not abroad. Water is heated by solar panels.
  • All lights have been upgraded to LED by the great team at ABC Electrical. Sensors only switch the lights on when it gets dark and movement is detected in the room. So when you walk into the toilets the lights come on, and they automatically switch off when you leave.

Water Systems

Singleton Environment Centre 2008

Photo from 2008

  • A grey water recycling system collects rainwater from the roof and is directed into an outside tank. It’s then filtered and pumped back into an indoor storage tank and used for flushing toilets, feeding the outdoor water tap and for plant irrigation. The overflow from the storage tank is used to top up the pond. Once the pond is full, the water will discharge into a ditch to top up the water table.
  • The urinals in the mens toilets also feature a sensor to only flush after people use them, so not wasting any water flushing when it’s not needed. Biodegradable urinal treatment features harmless bacteria which breakdown scale and smells whilst using no nasty chemicals.
  • Our SUDS drainage system deals with surface water naturally absorbing into the water course, not the sewers.


  • All the soil that was excavated from the site has been retained and formed into mounds which will create natural habitats and areas for children’s play.
  • Kentish rag stone from the site has been used to create the seating in the amphitheatre and can also been seen around the site.

  • Topsoil from the neighbouring housing development has been used to create a natural amphitheatre.
  • All plants are made up of native English species and are managed by our staff and volunteer teams.
Singleton Environment Centre 2008

Photo from 2008

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

  • All waste will be segregated and recycled wherever possible, including office paper, newspaper, cardboard, cans, glass and plastic bottles. Batteries, ink & toner cartridges and electrical waste are also recycled.
  • Food waste, grass cuttings, garden waste and even paper towels from the centre are composted on site and re-used on the grounds.
  • Wherever possible all products used at the Centre contain recycled material, are made from natural ingredients and have zero of minimal effect on our environment.

The following organisations have contributed towards the construction:

  • Ashford Borough Council
  • Barwick
  • Biffaward
  • Channel Corridor Partnership
  • Communities and Local Government
  • Hillreed Homes
  • Heritage Lottery Fund
  • Kent County Council
  • Redrow Homes
  • Rail Link Countryside Initiative (RLCI)
Singleton Environment Centre 2007

Technical Specification 2007

With thanks to the architects, Architype, for this information and 2008 photographs. See https://architype.co.uk/project/singleton-environment-centre/

Download this two-page PDF About the buildings and grounds

Singleton Spaces

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