Did you know that Chy Noweth an Conteth means ‘New County House’ in Cornish?
Fearlessly doing what no other WI Federation had done before, the building of our headquarters was a tremendous adventure. Having taken the decision to move because our 4-storey listed building was not suitable to install a lift to comply with new disabled access regulations, we looked very hard for a suitable building within our price range, but with no success. The decision was therefore made to design and build our own headquarters. Quite simple really. Buy a site. Choose a plan. Instruct a builder. So that, in a nutshell, is what we did!
Finding the site was the easy part. Coming up with a suitable plan was harder. One of our main concerns was that the building should be wheelchair friendly; i.e., all level access with wide doorways and plenty of space in the toilets, etc. We also wanted a large conference room which could be divided into three small rooms, a chairman’s rest room and a large resource area.
We also wanted to build the whole place environmentally – collecting rainwater, producing some of our own electricity, using extra thick insulation, having a lot of double glazed windows for solar gain and using sustainable materials. It was a tall order.
Several plans were discussed and priced, but it became fairly obvious that, as a charity, we could not raise enough money to cover all those ideas, so we had to eliminate some.
Finding a builder who could build what we wanted at a price we could afford, was even harder. A lot of searching and a bit of luck a produced a very good builder who was really helpful.
The building is timber framed with mainly cedar cladding and has enough windows to allow plenty of natural light. The doorways are wide and the toilets are spacious. The conference room is smaller than we had hoped, but it does divide into two smaller rooms.
The original plan showed escape stairs from the conference room. We had to point out that stairs were not wheelchair friendly, but a second plan suggested a fire exit ‘bridge’ from the conference room adjoining a deck to the front of the building. This has proved to be a design feature and makes the whole set-up very wheelchair friendly indeed.
The installation of photovoltaic panels on the roof provides much of our electricity needs, as well as making money for us from the sale of surplus electricity to the national grid. Under-floor heating is provided by a gas fired boiler keeping the whole building warm in winter.
Being built on a slope allows a cavernous space on the lower floor to store the myriad of items and equipment used at conferences, events, day schools and the Royal Cornwall Show, as well as storing stock for sale in Publications. There is also another meeting room in the basement for use from time to time.
On the whole, we are very happy with our beautiful headquarters and grateful to those WIs and individuals who have given and loaned money for the build.
The car park is now partially completed and we hope that the remaining section will be completed as soon as possible.