Hammonasset Beach State Park Visitor's Center
To meet the need for improved services at Hammonasset Beach State Park, the State of Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection recently added a new beach services building. The park, which serves approximately 1 million residents and visitors each year, provides access to Long Island Sound, inland marshes and camping.
The new 2,500-square-foot building is located at the center of the mile-long beach with nearly 4,000 square feet of deck and boardwalk. Inspiration for the building was derived from the site itself. The requirement to remain sensitive to the coastal environment, both from a conservation standpoint as well as an understanding of its harsh effects on the built environment, led to a design that touches the site lightly with natural materials that will remain serviceable for years to come.
The design utilizes strategies that highlight the site's natural features: passive ventilation; natural daylight; maximizing summer breezes; views to the sound; and shelter from the sun in summer and protection from harsh winter winds. The building is nestled into the land forms and durable enough to withstand the heavy use of a public park and coastal environment.
The goals of the project were achieved with simple architectural forms in the New England vernacular, executed with a limited palette of natural materials, including unfinished cedar, zinc-coated copper roofing and teak windows reminiscent of past buildings at the park. The structure itself is a simple timber frame on a concrete foundation. Structural Insulation Panels are used to span the timber frame, which provides deep overhangs to provide shaded areas of respite.
The building is designed to accommodate a Men's and Women's Toilet Room, each with 10 fixtures, as well as four family or Special Needs changing rooms. Vending is also provided within the building. A rinse-off shower provides a useful amenity to park users and reduces maintenance by limiting the amount of sand in the building, which can prematurely wear down finishes and clog floor drains.
Materials inside the building are selected for their durability as well as aesthetics, and include unfinished cedar, MDO plywood with a clear finish, fiberglass reinforced panels and rubber flooring. These materials provide weather resistance, easy cleaning and a long life cycle. Composting waste systems are used to collect water and waste from toilet facilities, saving nearly a half-million gallons of water annually and reducing nitrogen on Long Island Sound. This important sustainability feature is also used as an educational tool.
The way materials are used is as important as the material selections themselves and lead to the building's low operating cost and sustainability. By means of a simple, but carefully planned, passive ventilation scheme, the summer breezes keep the building cool by introducing warm air into the building below the elevated decks and allowing it to flow up through the building to a rooftop ventilation monitor at the top of the building.
Unfinished western red cedar is used as a siding material inside and out. Its natural beauty and decay-resistant properties allow it to be used without coatings or finishes, reducing environmental impact and lowering maintenance. To further reduce maintenance, the siding is installed with a horizontal skirt board at the lower three feet of wall, facilitating the replacement of the portions of siding most susceptible to damage.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.ct.gov/dep/hammonasset
"Proof that size does not matter. Nicely detailed to survive and age in a harsh environment. Well done!"
"Excellent use of materials and minimizes energy use. While it is a simple restroom building, it has been treated with care and respect, and has a lot of appeal."
"Creative use of regional materials that fit the location."
"This small structure harmonizes with its natural surroundings with the use of timeless materials and simple building form."
Civil Engineer: Nathan L. Jacobson Associates
General Contractor: Connecticut Carpentry
MEP Engineer: Consulting Engineering Services
Structural Engineer: Gibble Norden Champion Brown