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University of St Andrews - Low carbon building

New laboratory building at University of St Andrews achieves research and energy efficiency excellence

University of St Andrews biomedical sciences

Designed to Carbon Trust guidelines, the new, purpose built University of St Andrews Biomedical Sciences Research Centre laboratory facilities opened in December 2011. It has successfully attained excellent sustainability standards with an EPC A rating and an Outstanding BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) rating, and was Highly Commended in the 2012 Carbon Trust Scotland Low Carbon Building Awards.

Our on-going relationship with the Carbon Trust on several projects throughout the University has achieved excellent energy savings, and by following the Carbon Trust’s guidelines for the Biomedical Sciences Building we have once again created considerable benefits.

David Stutchfield

Energy Officer, University of St Andrews

The background

With its high reputation for original research, in 2007, the University of St Andrews Biomedical Sciences (BMS) faculty sought a purpose built laboratory annexe as a centre for scientific excellence which has achieved a BREEAM Outstanding rating and an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) A rating. Taking their lead from the University, the combination of specialised project management by Turner & Townsend working alongside BMJ Architects and RSP Consulting Engineers enabled the project team to focus on the sustainability and energy efficiency targets.

Three keys to the low carbon design

The integration of passive building elements

The building plan follows a functional split into three zones of office facilities,
laboratories and core rooms. Natural light is an essential aspect of the design of the offices and laboratories. The extensive use of high performance solar glazing provides good quality, natural daylight while minimising solar gain and overheating while avoiding excessive heat loss. Solar control roller blinds are used for the east elevation and integral blinds in the fixed west elevation laboratory windows are supplemented by an external brise soleil.

Daylight for working spaces

The positioning of the offices, meeting and writing rooms along the glazed walls on the north and east elevations, and the laboratories along the glazed west elevation ensure the contribution of natural light. The flexibility of the floor plate design will allow for future office expansion, especially in the open plan 'writing up' spaces, through a compact 6.6 metre bay module which will still enable access to daylight and natural ventilation.

The core service rooms, which do not require constant natural daylight, provide functions for both sides and are in the centre of the building with central services ducts. Stairwells and toilets are located at the ends of the building, and 'dead' circulation space is minimised, while allowing sufficient space for social and information exchange.

Access to air

Natural ventilation design features include manually controlled natural ventilation to all office facilities with high and low level trickle ventilation at windows.

Good airflow is encouraged by warm air exhausting via a natural stack effect to the roof mounted wind catchers. This feature required specialist assessment of the building envelope air tightness to enable the critical balance between efficiency and controlled ventilation to be achieved.

Water conservation

Low flush WCs, low flow showers and sensor taps also encourage water conservation by consuming less potable water than standard specification fittings.

Insulation effectiveness

The building fabric wall and roof U-values were designed to improve significantly on the minimum specified by the Building Regulations, to raise the values of different elements by between 20% and 56%. Insulation behind glazed spandrel panels ensures these elements match overall walling values.

Renewable energy benefits

For this 24 hour/365 day operating research unit, heating is provided by a 230KWe CHP unit using a high temperature heating circuit for the base load heating, and helps minimise risk of power outages to the laboratory's research work.

While other renewable technologies were assessed, including rainwater recovery, solar thermal and photovoltaic power, these were discounted as they did not suit the restricted building layout or provide sufficient long term value against the limited budget.

In contrast, life cycle cost analysis identified that the CHP unit had a payback of around three years, fully justifying its inclusion to achieve the BREEAM outstanding rating.  In-depth design analysis identified that total heat and electrical energy consumption for the BMS Research Annexe would be 918 KWh/m2/annum. This showed that incorporation of the CHP plant would achieve a 54.2% total carbon emission saving in the total project against conventional heating and power.

Download the full case study:

University of St Andrews case study (PDF)

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