Bright Building is designed to the highest sustainability standards

The University of Bradford’s origins go back to 1832, when The Mechanics Institute was set up to meet the city’s growing need for workers with cutting-edge skills. The university continually invests in its campus to provide a world-class teaching and learning environment and state-of-the-art facilities. And its latest addition, the innovative Bright Building, continues the long tradition, designed to the highest sustainability standards.

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oday, the university gathers together 10,000 students from 110 nations and, with its ethos of ‘making knowledge work’, is the number one university for graduate employment in the north of England and number two in the UK. It continues to push its agenda to create a low carbon campus, reflected by the Bright Building, a monolithic hemp and timber frame building that utilises a range of recycled materials and incorporates a variety of renewable energy technologies.

The £6m building was purpose-built to create the ‘front door’ for the University of Bradford. Located in a prominent location on the City Campus, it provides a link between the university and the business community, who are encouraged to use its flexible and collaborative office space.

As the client, the University of Bradford set the goal of delivering a landmark, world-class building. It wanted the building to be a focal point on campus to underpin the university’s Ecoversity programme which embeds sustainability into every aspect of its operations. In doing so, it has created a building that has achieved the highest BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ rating ever seen in the education sector.

Innovating technologies

Designed by architecture firm Farrell and Clark, the building incorporates highly sustainable materials and techniques which place this building at the cutting edge of innovation within the construction sector – its ultra-efficient passive design delivering extremely low energy in-use.

In the construction of the building, careful attention was paid to the specification of materials, with 90% of all key building materials and 95% of all hardstanding and boundary materials achieving an A or A+ BRE Green Guide Rating.

The building’s timber framed structure features Hemcrete external walling. A hemp and lime wall system, this innovative product locks in 110kg of CO2 per m² of wall. A total of 350m² of Hemcrete was used, making the Bright Building the world’s largest monolithic Hemcrete building, and this absorbed over 50 tonnes of CO2 in the curing process.

The upper floors were created in Lytag concrete, a waste by-product that combines pulverised fuel ash from coal-fired power stations with void formers to reduce the concrete’s weight and volume of concrete. Additionally, 30% of all aggregates used on the project consisted of recycled aggregates sourced within 30km of the site.

The building has no mains gas or mains electricity, although it is connected to the university’s self-generated private electricity network for back-up purposes. Instead, it features an innovative passive solar design including south-facing trombe walls which exploit heat gain in winter via a glazed external face which heats an internal thermal mass layer separated by an air gap. In addition, solar chimneys have been included to provide natural ventilation, heating and lighting. Active sustainable technologies include solar photovoltaic panels linked in a balanced manner to an air source heat pump.

According to the project’s Consultant Engineer, Silcock Leedham, a major factor in the building’s success is its natural ventilation system, which allows fresh air into the building space while, at the same time, removing stale air through passive means, such as wind and pressure differences. Naturally, ventilated buildings consume as much as 50% less electricity than ones with mechanical ventilation (MV) plants, according to The Carbon Trust, and produce 40% less CO2.

“The Bright Building has been carefully designed so that its physics drive everything – not the engineering,” commented Silcock Leedham. “It’s fully naturally ventilated into a Building Energy Management System (BEMS). In addition to the lower investment costs as a result of having no mechanical ventilation (MV) plant, there is a reduction in ongoing lifecycle costs and less technology to service and maintain.”

In order to work effectively in all prevailing conditions, the ventilation can be swung from north to south depending on environmental factors such as outside air temperature, humidity, rain, wind and CO2. This is important, for with each person exhaling 10-75 litres of carbon dioxide and around 175g of water vapour per hour, air quality can deteriorate quickly. This is achieved through innovative window actuator technology, which allows window positions to be controlled and monitored, as well as providing near-silent operation and enhanced levels of safety and security.

The project also featured an integrated intelligent window control package. Millimetre-by-millimetre control achieves the most effective natural ventilation, as a window that is open too wide or too little will actually impede the ventilation of a space. By using a graphical real-time user interface, it is possible for the University of Bradford’s facilities management team to view the exact position of any window and receive an early indication of possible faults, as well as showing if the controls have been over-ridden. There is a security benefit too, as a signal can be sent to confirm that all, or selected, windows are fully closed outside normal working hours.

Paul Lambourne, Mechanical Project Manager at the University of Bradford, is delighted with the results. “As well as low running costs, reduced energy consumption, low maintenance and lower initial cost, it is also healthier for occupants and allows the building to work in harmony with the natural environment,” he said.

Rewarding excellence

The awarding of a BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ final certification to the Bright Building confirms it to be a sustainability exemplar and an embodiment of the business research centre’s innovative and forward-thinking ethos. This is a commonly expressed goal in the industry, however the project’s 95.2% BREEAM score makes it the highest ranking building in the education sector and among the most sustainable buildings of its kind yet created.

Its performance is approximately 85% better than CIBSE TM46 good practice energy benchmarks, with total energy consumption at just 30kWh/m² per annum. Its excellent energy efficiency is reflected in the fact that only 50% of energy costs are attributable to heating.

The non-standard aspects of the design saw the scheme secure four credits in the Innovation section of BREEAM representing exemplary performance. The BREEAM process itself provided a framework to coordinate the project team around meeting a wide variety of sustainability goals.

Andy Hague, Project Manager at the University of Bradford, commented: “The project is a true testament to the way BREEAM can drive forward the sustainability aspirations of a large organisation. BREEAM provided a key measure against the estates team’s determination to achieve a high rating and was an essential tool for the project’s innovative and highly committed delivery team by breaking each goal into smaller and more manageable targets.”

The Bright Building has been recognised in various awards, including picking up the Best Sustainable Project in the Local Authority Building Control (LABC) Building Excellence Awards 2013 and Highly Commended in the Green Gown Awards 2015. It also achieved a BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ rating and a commendation in the 2015 BREEAM Mixed Use and Other Buildings Award which firmly places it within the top 1% of UK buildings in terms of sustainability and reducing environmental impact.

As well as being an inherently sustainable building in its construction and performance, the Bright Building is used as a resource by sustainable companies. This helped the project achieve its class-leading BREEAM score by showing how sustainability can be economically regenerative and productive. The project has embraced every aspect of BREEAM and, as a result, has harnessed all of the method’s benefits in reaching its goals.

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