21st June 2016

Avalon Beach Surf Life Saving Club makes waves in the community

You wouldn’t know it looking at the place now, but Sydney’s Avalon Beach Surf Life Saving Club wasn’t always such a beauty.

In desperate need of rescue from the ravages of time and tide, the previous clubhouse was a badly weathered brick box – to put it nicely.

Club members – and architects – Richard Cole and Robert Hopton began the task of rejuvenating the clubhouse back in 2006. The result of their labours, and those of countless club members, is a remarkable new home to more than 1,000 club members and countless community groups.

Richard Cole proudly shared why the project was particularly special to him.

“I’ve been a member of the surf club for a decade, done patrols and nippers. Just using the old club and knowing the organisation from the inside was probably the most informative influence on the way this has been designed. It needed to be a single building, yet had quite a complex brief for multiple uses. Flexibility of use was the key,” he explained.

A generous use of glass in the design helped the revitalised clubhouse reconnect to its exquisite setting.

“Glass provides unobtrusive flexibility and thermal performance. The building is naturally ventilated and highly insulated. It uses minimal energy and collects its own rainwater and solar power,” Richard explained.

“Glass is intrinsic to allowing the clubhouse to function in a sustainable way – but it also offers a wonderful amenity that really just seems so logical now that it is open and operating. There’s a quality of light and pleasure of experience that feels incredibly relaxed and appropriate to beach life and culture. And of course, it is glazing in that context of being able to open up and close down as required which fits that whole ethos here of design flexibility,” he added.

Despite its advantageous positioning, there project faced limitations.

“We simply couldn’t have afforded the higher spec glass. Part of our funding structure was to seek assistance from the building supply community. The club enjoyed a fantastic response from a few suppliers, particularly Viridian. They really came on board in a fantastic way by upgrading to a higher spec of materials. It was brilliant to obtain their SmartGlass™. It had a huge impact on the appearance, experience and long term running costs of the building,” Richard explained.

Viridian glass doesn’t just help the building access its gorgeous views and light, it provides thermal benefits as well.

We recently had a 40 degree day and there weren’t any major heat issues. We can regulate sea breezes throughout summer with those sliding doors and windows. When the wind picks up on the south-east ocean side, we simply open it up to the west. The use of Viridian performance glazing is also a contributor to temperature management and ambience of the building,” he said.

Since its impeccable renovation, the clubhouse has made a substantial impact on the community as a whole.

The response has been overwhelming. Most people who walk up the entry stairs and take in the vista are pretty astonished. They get this postcard experience and iconic beach image. Standing on the balcony, or from one of the upper level rooms and looking out to sea to the breaking waves is a fantastic experience. The design and materials really helped to shape that experience and it’s working. There are so many people within the club who volunteer and freely commit enormous amounts of time and skill. It is very rewarding to have been able to contribute to a building that facilitates that dedication.”