BSRIA was delighted to support delivery of an innovative new Enterprise Centre, providing the gateway building to the University of East Anglia (UEA) campus. BSRIA support included cursory investigation of innovative materials, life cycle costing, airtightness testing, thermal imaging, post occupancy evaluation (POE) and Soft Landings.
The Enterprise Centre is the latest pioneer building for UEA, following in the footsteps of the Elizabeth Fry Building, the Zuckerman Institute and the Julian Study Centre. BREEAM outstanding was achieved with a 93 per cent rating and now Passivhaus certification is being targeted. The building has been built on a brownfield site using 70 per cent bio-based materials, many of which have been sourced locally.
It exceeds local planning requirements for 10 per cent of the building’s energy to be from renewables, with a 480 m2 roof-mounted photovoltaic array, predicted to generate 44 MWh a year. Over the lifetime of the building, the embodied carbon is predicted to be one quarter that of a conventionally constructed building.
The two-storey 3,400 m2 building is the new home for the Adapt Low Carbon Group, which was created to commercialise graduate start-up firms that have grown out of UEA’s world-class environmental sciences departments. Adapt wanted its new facilities to be an exemplar of sustainability.
The building is wrapped in thatch: this traditional Norfolk roofing material is formed of 250 mm thick layers of straw set in prefabricated, vertically-hanging timber cassettes – a world first according to Morgan Sindall’s senior site manager Ken Bassett. The thatch holds, for 100 years or so, carbon absorbed by plants photosynthesising, providing a good carbon negative local material.
The unique cassette system was developed under a single point delivery contract by Morgan Sindall and project architect Architype. The cassettes were thatched horizontally by local thatchers, who were able to carry out the work safely in barns through the winter when traditionally there is very little work for them. The use of cassettes has enabled this traditional material to be installed in much the same way as conventional cladding panels.
Significantly, the panels sit outside the building’s airtightness and insulation line and are not part of the structure. Thatch cladding features on every elevation of the E-shaped building. The building’s form was driven by the requirement to maximise the amount of daylight internally, providing light airy spaces.
The top and bottom elements of the E are formed by the two main wings, one of which is for teaching, and the other for start-ups, while a predominantly transparent block links the wings in its centre, and forming the middle of the E is a 300 seat auditorium.
In keeping with the low carbon philosophy, a 70 per cent ground granulated blasted furnace mix was used as a cement replacement for foundation and structure, which reduced embodied carbon to 30 per cent compared to a regular building. A 98 per cent recycled steel frame was also used, instead of the typical 50 per cent.
Heat losses were minimised by polystyrene kerb units which enabled the insulating envelope to continue from under the concrete raft to join up with the insulation in the wall. The building’s glulam structural frame is supported by the raft. It was sourced from abroad because there are no commercial-scale glulam makers in the UK.
The project makes use of Corsican Pine, sourced from Thetford Forest 30 miles away for the construction of internal studwork walls. Timber is also used for construction of the façade brise soleil which can be adapted to allow more louvres to be added in the future.
The need to rethink the allocation of south-facing windows was deemed essential for Passivhaus, as a source of passive heating and to help limit internal gains. Aided by LED lighting and an intelligent control system, this helped keep lighting loads to a minimum and kept the primary energy demand below 120 kWh/m2/yr.