2019 is the 20th anniversary of the creation of the Welsh National Assembly. In 2006, seven years later, the elected representatives for Wales, known as Aelodau’r Cynulliad, or Assembly Members, moved into the newly built Senedd (Welsh for Assembly) overlooking Cardiff Bay.
The National Assembly for Wales’ Senedd building uses a mixture of natural materials as part of a wider sustainable design brief. Designed for longevity and low maintenance, the building uses Canadian and Welsh woods, as well as over 1000 tonnes of Welsh slate.
Western red cedar imported from sustainable forests in British Columbia, Canada, lines the ceiling and iconic funnel that rises from the central debating chamber.
Designed to weather over time to shades of grey under the exterior canopy, this wood is characteristically low maintenance thanks to its inherent rot-resistant properties. The red cedar used in the Senedd is also relatively lightweight and blemish free, making it an ideal choice to enhance the flowing aesthetic of the building’s interior.
Welsh oak is used in the viewing gallery and debating chamber, treated with teak oil to enhance its finish and longevity.
Beyond appearances alone, the Senedd boasts numerous environmental features that help to minimise its utilities use and carbon footprint. Natural ventilation keeps the building cool in summer months, with windows opening themselves to maintain a comfortable temperature.
In colder months, both a ground-source heat pump and biomass boiler provide low-carbon warmth to the Senedd. To top this off, the huge roof area captures rainwater for use in the toilet flushes, meaning the building’s demand on mains water is kept to an absolute minimum. Attention has been paid to sustainable design aspects of the building — materials were selected for their whole-life costs, and specified to a design life of 100 years. The slate is from Penrhyn Quarry in Bethesda, Wales.
When the Welsh Government was created 20 years ago in May 1999, Wales became one of the first nations in the world to have a legal duty in relation to sustainable development at the heart of its constitution. This commitment to sustainability was strengthened by the ‘Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act’ in 2015, which placed sustainable development as the central organising principle of the public sector in Wales. The Act is about improving the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of the country. It also set ambitious and long-term goals for a prosperous, resilient, healthier, more equal Wales, based on the UN’s sustainable development principles
British Columbia is also a world leader in forest management, with the highest number of certified sustainable forests in the world (except for Canada, as a whole), as well as other keys areas of sustainable policymaking.
50% of the National Assembly for Wales’ wood was sourced from British Columbia, which is the perfect physical representation of the closeness of the relationship between Wales and Canada.
“We opened our Welsh Government Office in Canada just last year, however already there have been so many opportunities for us to work with the Canadians to help build a more sustainable future” says Andrew Wagstaff, Wales’ representative in Canada. “From sharing knowledge and experiences of carbon-neutral policymaking with Canadian provinces around the Global Climate Action Summit, to joining the UK and Canada-led Powering Past Coal Alliance, as part of which Wales is now leading a Joint Taskforce with the Marshall Islands — there are so many areas where Wales and Canada are natural partners.”
“I think it’s because we’re two countries that appreciate not only the role our landscapes play in the wellbeing and livelihoods of our people today, but also in their global significance, and the importance of preserving these for future generations to come. I think the marriage of sustainable woods from Canada and Wales in the Senedd is a beautiful example of this.”