• AHR’s Pool and Tremough Innovation Centres in Cornwall have achieved exemplary results in a recent Innovate UK Building Performance Evaluation programme, measuring the performance in use of 55 non-domestic buildings in the UK. Pool Innovation Centre was found to have the best energy performance out of the 12 office buildings included in the study, and Tremough Innovation Centre followed closely behind. The feedback from the Building Use Survey (BUS) placed these two buildings among the five best performers in the benchmark set of 50 buildings used for the Building Performance Evaluation study.

    AHR completed Pool Innovation Centre in 2010 and Tremough Innovation Centre, Penryn in 2011, for Cornwall Council and SWRDA*; the building sare now operated by Plymouth University. Both projects achieved a BREEAM Excellent rating at the time of completion.

    While many buildings across the country achieve high environmental ratings when they are completed, research suggests that there is a significant gap between expected and actual building performance results once buildings are occupied. Comprehensive Building Performance Evaluations(BPEs) are still relatively rare and so the Innovate UK study provides highly valuable feedback which can help inform and improve environmental design strategies for the future, ensuring that buildings are as sustainable as they are supposed to be.

    The results of the report on Pool and Tremough Innovation Centres, undertaken by AHR’s R&D team, demonstrate the success of applying stringent targets and an integrated fabric-first approach to deliver them; that is, ensuring that a building is designed from the outset to maximise the benefits of natural ventilation, good day lighting and window design, high U values, shading and insulation, thus minimising the need for mechanically-operated (and energy-powered) heating, lighting and ventilation.

    The occupier feedback gathered via the Building Use Survey showed that users were particularly happy with the design of the buildings. AHR’s study of seven buildings under the programme indicated a strong correlation between user satisfaction with the design and overall satisfaction with comfort.

    Common toall of the 55 projects included in the Innovate UK study were challenges relating to the M&E (mechanical & electrical) subcontract. Building Management Systems (BMS) and meteringwere shown to be especially problematic, frequently compromising occupier comfort, energy management and maintenance. At Pool and Tremough Innovation Centres user feedback on windows, lighting, temperature and security, demonstrated an opportunity for further design innovation to simplify user controls.

    HR’s key recommendations arising from the study are as follows:
    • Where possible, involve the M&E subcontractor and the facilities management team from the outset of the project
    • Implement Soft Landings in conjunction with operational energy use budgets and an Energy Risk Register from design to operation.
    • Consideration should be given to the complexity of building systems and BMS controls at design stage. Depending on complexity of the BMS system additional support should be provided to the building operator following commissioning and training.
    • Set operational energy use targets up front to protect passive design features from value engineering as the project moves through construction
    • Monitor temperature and CO2 data alongside energy use data from the first month of the building’s operation and undertake a Building Use Survey at the end of the first year of operation.
    • Make the contractor responsible for achieving operational energy use targets and for submitting energy use data for benchmarking for at least the first year of operation.

    Dr Judit Kimpian, Director of Sustainable Architecture and Research at AHR, said, “It is all too rare that architects have the opportunity to revisit their designs, analyse data and find out just how well their projects are performing in use. We need more opportunities tomake significant improvements to the environmental performance of buildings in the UK. The insights and lessons learned afforded by the Innovate UK evaluation of Pool and Tremough Innovation Centres are invaluable and will inform our future projects, but will also allow us to share our experiences with the rest of the profession.”
    AHR Communications Team
    20 MAY 15
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