Marwell Zoo calls upon expertise to 'upcycle' disused glasshouse and create new 'semi desert' animal exhibit

A popular Hampshire zoo has turned to the expertise of the CambridgeHOK team to ‘upcycle and revamp’ an old disused glasshouse – making it the perfect ‘semi desert’ environment for new species and plant displays.

The 24m long glasshouse at Marwell Zoo has not been used since 2018, when it was closed because it was no longer efficient enough from a heat perspective to house tropical species.

Now, it is being brought back into use, with the team from CambridgeHOK cleaning and restoring as much of the original building as possible, and replacing glass panels which have become damaged beyond repair,

The team will then install new irrigation and control systems to ensure the perfect temperature and moisture levels can be maintained.

The new exhibit, to be called ‘Thriving Through Nature’, will be home to species that thrive in sub-tropical temperatures, meaning less heat is needed throughout the winter months.

It will include waterfalls and rocks for Rock hyrax - small, rabbit-like animals native to Africa – to enjoy, alongside freshwater fish, insects, amphibians and lizards which will live amongst herbs, palms and plants.

Aim has been to restore and retain most of original glasshouse

Ian Dolman, Operations Manager at CambridgeHOK, said: “This is a unique job for us as, whilst we are often called upon to design and build many new glasshouses, bringing an old, disused building glasshouse back into use is an entirely different challenge.

“Although this is nothing like the scale of many of the commercial horticultural produce growing glasshouses that we build, there have been substantial challenges to overcome.

“Firstly, as you can imagine, given it is as glass building which has been stood unused and open to the elements for almost five years, it was not in a great condition when we were first shown around the site, but all agreed the best way forward, taking environment considerations into account, was to bring it back into use.

“We wanted to retain as much of the original building as possible, and make sure that we maximised the value of choosing to refurbish, rather than rebuild. That meant we were very careful in terms of retaining existing glazing wherever possible.

“Given it stands at a height of almost seven metres, the roofing glazing panels had to be reached with a special boom lift.

“Thankfully, we have bene able to retain many original glazing panels, which have been chemically cleaned and now look as good as new. It has been a great project to be involved in.”

Sean Mannie, Commercial Director at Marwell Zoo, said: “We are absolutely delighted to be bringing back to life this wonderful glass-house, which was for many years, such a popular and integral part of any visit to Marwell.

“It will look completely different, featuring lots of exciting new species in a brand-new easy to view setting. We know our guests will love it.”

CambridgeHOK started on site in November 2022 and are expected to handover in April, ready for the zoo to create the new environment, which will incorporate viewing areas as well as learning opportunities for visitors.

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