• Pwllheli Sailing Club Architectural Cladding Mass Gravity Retaining Wall Welded Gabion Portfolio

Pwllheli Sailing Club


Pwllheli Sailing Club tucked away beyond Snowdonia’s craggiest peaks in north-west Wales, has evolved into one of Britain’s finest sailing venues. Located on the southern side of the Llýn Peninsula, an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) and facing Cardigan Bay, the spectacular backdrop is ideally situated for all things sailing.

The Pwllheli scheme would form part of an innovative £8.3 million investment project by Gwynedd County Council to target the outdoor sector. The state-of-the-art facilities would suit sailors of all levels and abilities. Aside from sailing, both tourism and local employment opportunities would also benefit from the development.

Wynne Construction contacted Enviromesh prior to construction. To discuss the scheme’s requirements with Celtic Heritage, with whom Enviromesh had worked on a number of previous projects.

The Enviromesh design team was invited to submit design drawings taking into account the architect’s vision for a building that would be constructed to BREEAM* standards.

Working closely with Celtic Heritage throughout the project, Enviromesh consulted on the technical requirements of the Architectural Gabion Cladding system and on the project’s wider remit, including a number of Mass Gravity Gabion Retaining Walls. The Architectural Gabion Cladding system, in accordance, was unusual in that it contained long, sweeping curved sections reflecting the architect’s design and circular form of the main building. In addition to the technical advice that Enviromesh would provide on how best to improve the structural integrity of the walls, the glazed openings, doorways and the inclusion of services passing through the walls, would also need addressing. Because of the complexities of the build, Enviromesh made periodic contact with the site, to address any queries or concerns.

Trefor granite

Trefor is a village on the north coast of the Llýn Peninsula, and its name is synonymous with the characteristic pink, blue and grey granite of the area, famed for its use for curling stones. Being locally available to the project, this stone was the ideal material for Pwllheli Sailing Club. From an architectural and aesthetic standpoint, coupled with the fact that the stone would be available in varying sizes, a less uniform look to the texture and visual appearance of the walls would be achievable.


The building was specified with sustainability in mind, including biomass heating, photovoltaic (solar) panels and rainwater harvesting, and as mentioned, would be developed in accordance with the BREEAM Excellence 2011 standard.

An iconic landmark building

The investment in Pwllheli Sailing Club would form part of an overall development strategy for the area as a whole, in order to create an iconic ‘multifunctional’ building. It would be capable of hosting not only some of the world’s best sailing competitions but be available for use by the wider community too, with its flexible events space, educational facilities and café bar areas— creating a sense of place.

Councillor John Wynn Jones, a member of Gwynedd Council’s Economy Cabinet, commented on the scheme, saying “The Academy building will provide an invaluable resource for the local community – as a centre for the community to use as well as providing modern facilities that will benefit local residents and visitors to the area.” 


The Architectural Gabion Cladding was designed to follow a natural curve. As gabion units are generally used in linear applications, close attention would need to be given to the alignment of each cell.

The baskets were built on site in ‘panel form’ to ensure the curvature of the building remained true to the design. Fabricating the baskets locally, enabled accuracy of alignment with respect to the characteristic wall curve as well as the various openings. Pipework and services could be more easily accommodated, particularly where these pass through the gabion baskets at varying heights, sizes and positions.

Each gabion cell or unit in this project was specified as 675 × 675mm. This allowed for the bottom of the cell to be reached and filled at ‘arms-length’. There is a two-fold advantage to this.

Primarily, hand-placing the stone fill offers a practical way to achieve a precise finish, contributing to the visual appearance; secondly, by using smaller gabion units, the distribution of steelwork within the structure meant the finished walls would maintain alignment.

Safe Working Practices

To make certain the build team were fully compliant with health and safety concerns. In this case, involved lifting heavy stone materials to 2.4 metres high, Celtic Heritage provided mechanical lifting equipment and ensured that the build team followed the correct safety procedures.

Delivering the rockfill material, Granite, to the 2.4m working height required the scaffolding to be built in three lifts. This would ensure the team could work safely as the height of the walls increased. A telehandler was used as a more controllable means to lift the stone to the build team. Additional support was provided to ensure the weight of the stone did not compromise the scaffold platforms.

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