Arsenal go for Aluminium; and set to top the Premier League (for Sustainability)

By Ian Grant

It’s true. The underside soffatt of the roof is; the door furniture is; the bowl side doors to the private suites are; all the ceilings in the general admin areas are and the bridge pedestrian barriers at Ashburton Grove are.

Still it goes to make what chief architect of the project from HOK SVE, Barry Lowe, thinks will easily be the best football ground in Britain.

I recently attended MIPIM, the largest worldwide international property show in Cannes, France, and wandering around the 2000 or so stands, came across a large white model of Ashburton Grove. I managed to get an exclusive interview from the chief architect on the project, Barry Lowe.

The first thing that hits you is the sheer scale of the regeneration project. The new Arsenal ground will be cemented into the local community – and part of a bigger more widescale development. In 50 to 100 years it may well be a historical testament to the time the Labour Government changed the face of the UK with its regeneration policies.

Climate change is set to kill many more people than the Tsunami, and corporate social responsibility and sustainability is no longer about green PR and marketing. It is real and rising fast up the economic and political agenda. The Premiership’s image is one of concentrating on income and economics and in the process losing touch with the community and caring little about social and environmental issues. It needs projects like this.

Lowe pointed out the North Triangle – the key worker housing part of the development to be designed by Piers Gough. It will house 250 key workers. Two CZWG schemes will create 200 houses with 40 social units and 4×13 storey towers with 400 houses inclusive of social and key worker housing, respectively. There are additional residential and student units near the Lough Road site.

There are improved standards of noise, dust and odour control for the Waste Transfer Station which will serve Islington and parts of Hackney and Camden.

The new Arsenal offices are 40,000sq feet. There’ll be parking for 500 spaces.

With regard to parking, seventy percent of fans are expected to arrive by public transport, there is not such a need for huge car parks, unlike Old Trafford, where the majority come by car. Incidentally, Arsenal expect 1,140,000 supporters to attend Premiership matches there in one season, compared with the current average of 722,795 – an increase of 417,205.

Lowe explained the architectural and planning problems – a street frontage of only 70 metres from a total boundary of 1km. The height of the new stadium will be 46 metres from ground level to its highest point, while the roof will be 30 metres from ground level.

As far as the ground itself goes there’ll be 150 boxes (12/15 person capacity), along with 7000 club seats (3000 with dining silver service). It is believed restaurant will be open to the public all the time. Lowe stressed there would be flexibility to use some of the space commercially. There is planning permission for six other single-day events can be held at the stadium each year, with a maximum of three music concerts

On environmental and energy issues, Lowe said particular attention has been paid to waste management. By reusing and recycling all demolition waste the project aims to reduce concrete and ferrous waste landfill by 70%.

Rainwater is stored and re-used for irrigation and toilet flushing.

He said the architects have thought hard about the selection of materials being energy efficient and recycled wherever possible.

Heat from the stadium is to be recycled via vacuum. There’s plenty of natural ventilation – a passive and mixed mode ventilation system to minimize the use of air conditioning. The design of the roof will help the sunlight disperse through the stadium. Daylight will be maximized through the use of skylights, and high levels of fenestration and photovoltaic solar power will be used throughout.

At least it will be energy and environmentally conscious, unlike that of another club founded on climate changing oil money and censured over their energy use by the local council for heating their stands excessively on match days.

And the sound engineers have made sure the sound won’t be dispersed.

Lowe said there would be bigger, different sized screens (16×9) from those at Highbury.

I asked whether the Ashburton Grove design had been influenced by the HOK Olympics Stadium (Stadium Australia in Sydney). Lowe said no, and that the design was bespoke for the ground.

The key architectural element is what appears to be the ‘floating roof’ (it looks like it is floating from certain points in the ground). Key structural elements are the two bridges (costing £14m) – the largest with 130m span and 40m width to create the main pedestrian links to the stadium.

The actual stadium cost is £150m. The Robert McAlpine contract is for £300m but the value of the overall scheme is £600m. (A fair percentage is going towards relocation costs).

Given there were 4000 separate legal agreements for the project, Lowe says (jokingly) he wants to be a lawyer.