A piece of home for pioneering hospice

BMI Redland Cambrian Slate used for distinct roofing at High Wycombe hospice

The slate provides a natural, non-institutional look for the hospice

A first in the UK for its innovative use of reconstituted slate in a modern interlocking roofing material; the BMI Redland Cambrian Slate combines traditional looks with durability and cost-effectiveness; and so provided an ideal solution for roofing Butterfly House, an important and sensitively-designed £4.8m hospice in High Wycombe.

Butterfly House is the only palliative day hospice in South Buckinghamshire and the charity cares for up to 800 people a month there.

Owned by the South Bucks Community Hospice charity, it is a centre of excellence for palliative care and the training of specialist personnel from around the world.

The three-level 1400sq m building provides clinical services including lymphedema treatment, baths with hoists for patients with special mobility needs, counselling rooms, and dedicated space for young patients.

“The roof looks fantastic and it’s cost-effective. The slate works well with the quality facing materials that we’ve used. It was quick to install on site, and it has all the appearance of natural slate,” said Amanda Walker, director of DP Architects, which designed the centre.

This, she explains, was crucial because the roof is one of the hospice’s most-distinctive features and a key element giving it the feel of a home rather than an institution.

“The main ethos for the hospice was to create a place and space in which visitors could feel relaxed and at ease, with recognisable materials at a domestic scale,” she added.

“The roof not only creates a domestic two-storey appearance, but it also provides accommodation within the roof space. Originally this was intended to enable the hospice to expand. However, it’s now used for offices and fundraising.”

The material was chosen to reflect the homes nearby

With slopes on different levels and planes, rooflights, and two large dormer windows, the roof brings character to the building, but it also posed a challenge in roofing a very-large area within the budget of a charity. The material also needed to complement the 42 homes nearby.

“Due to the expanse of roof, the high quality of the facing material, and the surrounding area, we needed a very-natural-looking material that was of a very high quality, durable, and fitted in with the modest building budget,” said Walker.

“We’d used Spanish slate on another development and, although it was slightly cheaper, it wouldn’t have been as good.”

BMI Redland Cambrian Slate is manufactured with a thin leading edge and surface patterning taken from impressions of real natural slates. Its interlocking design features a unique three-point fixing which is secure on even the most-exposed sites.

Proven on pitches as low as 15°, Cambrian Slate is suitable for a wide range of projects and three colours are available: Heather, Langdale Green and Slate Grey – with Slate Grey also available in a pre-weathered finish.

At the time of its introduction, BMI Redland Cambrian Slate represented a pioneering approach to recycling and won the Queen’s Award for Technological Achievement for its use of slate waste in the manufacture of an attractive, high-quality, durable roofing material.

For contractor, Russell Roofing, careful consideration and organisation helped overcome the challenges of safety and detailing; and special care was needed due to the steep pitch of the roof necessary accommodate the rooms within the roof.

And planning, co-ordination and continuous liaison with the scaffolder was necessary to provide access for the various elevations and returns.


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