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UK’s Greenest Building Gets Go Ahead

The Norwich Enterprise Centre at the University of East Anglia will be the first commercial building in the United Kingdom to receive a Passivhaus and Breeam ‘Outsanding’ rating, and the building’s architects — Architype — have secured planning permission to begin construction.

Norwich councillors gave the go ahead for what has been dubbed “the greenest building in the UK”, a building which will provide academic and office space for the low-carbon sector.

Artist's impression of the Norwich Enterprise Centre Image Credit: Architype

Artist’s impression of the Norwich Enterprise Centre
Image Credit: Architype

“It was very important for the client to achieve both Passivhaus and Breeam,” said Ben Humphries, associate director at Architype. “Passivhaus is all about energy and comfort, it is proven to deliver very low energy but Breeam has all the other components so it was very important to have it all.”

“The other thing was having very low embodied carbon. We’ve comprehensively modelled the building over a 100 year life cycle which has really informed design choices. We’ve worked with the university’s experts and modelled the building in terms of climate change – the building has been designed to achieve the Passivhaus standard up until 2080.”

According to Humphries, writing on the Architype blog, the University’s brief required “the building to be ultra low in embodied carbon and as near to carbon sink as possible, with a lifespan of 100 [years] as opposed to the standard 60 years.”

The building will be built from a hybrid glulam, Brettstapel and Larsen truss structure with timber raised floors with minimal pad foundations. The whole building will be insulated with East Anglian grown hemp, and a rammed chalk lecture theatre will also be installed. As part of the winning construction design, Architype also included a rainscreen thatch cladding made from Norfolk grown Yeoman wheat and reed.

The University of East Anglia are well aware of the impact such a construction will have on the local community, and hosted a question and answer session last Thursday, specifically with a mind to field concerns regarding the changes to the Earlham Park car park.

“Earlham Park is a valuable resource for Norwich residents and keeping the car park open for use has always been a consideration in our planning application,” said John French, project director for the Enterprise Centre. “We propose to make half of the car park, approximately 34 spaces, available to users of Earlham Park during working hours. The other half of the car park will be for business tenants of the NRP Enterprise Centre and this has been set at a minimum, in keeping with a low carbon building.”

The construction of the Norwich Enterprise Centre is the first step in a wider phase of development at the University of East Anglia. Outline planning permission was also granted by the Norwich council for an additional 5,700 square metres of business and academic facilities.

Funding for the Norwich Enterprise Centre specifically, however, has come from a wide variety of groups, including the European Regional Development Fund, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Norwich Research Park, and the Building Research Establishment.

Construction on the Centre is expected to begin in the next few months with a planned completion and opening in January of 2015.

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