Coed y Brenin Visitor Centre

A leading example of Welsh timber use across a number of applications including Brettstapel as structural solution - all in a heavy-wear environment.

About this project

The £1.2 million extension to the iconic Coed-y-Brenin Forest Park Visitor Centre has almost doubled its size. Architype were appointed by Forestry Commission Wales (FCW) to design an exemplar building utilising Welsh grown softwoods. In the South Snowdonia National Park, the new building is linked to the current visitor centre by an overhead bridge and has been built using a revolutionary construction technique, Brettstapel, that could open up an exciting new market for Welsh timber.

The building, which was completed in June 2013, has been made entirely from home-grown timber and sets high standards in energy efficiency by using high levels of insulation, excellent airtightness and natural light. The 400m2 extension includes a new bike shop and hire facility on the ground floor, with a multi-functional conference/meeting room and cafe overflow area and much needed 24-hour access public WC’s on the first floor. The additional accommodation will help to serve the soaring visitor numbers, which attracted 150,000 visitors in 2013 following a record-breaking summer.

The building is well insulated with good natural light, and the high thermal mass and the moisture-buffering properties of the Brettstapel structure contribute to stable indoor conditions. 

Construction method

Brettstapel structure with an exterior insulated envelope filled with cellulose fibre insulation. Brettstapel is made up of short leaves of softwood held together with super-dried hardwood dowels. The dowels are knocked into the stacked leaves where they swell and
tighten the assembly into a rigid load-bearing panel. The Brettstapel was constructed offsite, contributing to high building quality and reduced time on site.

The timber story 

The Forestry Commission wanted the special character of the location to be preserved, and acknowledged in choice of materials, which drove the decision to use Brettstapel. 

  • Main load-bearing structure: Sitka spruce and Douglas fir

  • External Cladding: larch (including trees from the site itself) and untreated local Douglas fir

  • Decking and handrails: untreated local Douglas fir

  • Floor and skirting: oak and ash respectively, sourced and processed locally

  • Balcony: Western red cedar from Welsh forests - having silvered with age, this timber is ideal for outdoors decking as it is highly resilient to decay.

Further information

Architect's perspective

Home Grown Timber in UK Construction, Vol.1*

Images: HenriettaWilliamsPhotography

Key contacts


Forestry Commission Wales, now Natural Resources Wales



Timber Supplier

Natural Resources Wales


Pochin Construction Limited (on-site); Williams Homes Bala (off-site)

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