On arrival we assembled in the visitor centre where we were given a brief history of the Establishment from its early days as a government establishment after the first world war through its privatisation to its current status as an independent Trust. This most interesting introduction was given by Peter White, one of Deborah’s colleagues, who then led us on a guided tour round the site, where we were able to visit some of the extensive research and experimental facilities – the anechoic chamber, the structures laboratory and the wind tunnel. We were also treated to a visit to the xylarium (a store where XXXX samples of timber had been assembled over the years, including some XXX large samples (6ft long) of key constructional timbers, which, together with the seed and wood samples held by the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, were a world leading repository of samples from specific trees. The xylarium also held an example of an early jacquard card based database to assist in narrowing down the identification of the wood samples.
We were also privileged to see the Barnes Wallis scale model of the Möhne Dam, where trial scale explosions were undertaken to validate the theory behind the destruction of the Ruhr dams in World War II. 2018 is the 75th anniversary of the Dam Buster’s raids, so our visit was particularly opportune.
Following our morning tour of some of the BRE facilities we were treated to a splendid buffet lunch over which we were able to meet and chat with several BRE graduates, some of whom expressed interest in joining the Company.
Then suitably refreshed, we were given a guided tour of the BRE Innovation Park, where demonstration energy efficient and affordable houses were on display. The Innovation Park first opened in 2005 and has developed and changed significantly over the intervening years. The properties visited ranged from affordable, energy efficient one bedroom accommodation to the Prince’s Natural House – a much larger property that was built in 2011 by the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment as a demonstration of how a Victorian Terrace could be renovated to meet modern energy criteria and provide a positive living environment.
We then assembled again in the visitor centre, where the Master thanked Deborah for her hospitality and we went on our way fortified by tea and cakes.
BRE is holding an Open Day in September when it welcomes the general public to see some of its facilities, and members and their families would be welcome to visit them on the Open Day.