A breath of fresh air

Natural ventilation has helped make the University of Bradford’s Bright Building one of the most eco-friendly structures in the country

The University of Bradford’s origins go back to 1832 and the creation of The Mechanics Institute, which was formed in response to the need in the city for workers with cutting-edge skills. Today the university has 10,000 students from over 110 countries. With a background in technology and an ethos of ‘making knowledge work’, it’s the number one university for graduate employment in the north of England and number two in the UK.

The university continues to invest in its campus to ensure students can work in a teaching and learning environment with state-of-the-art facilities. With a clearly defined sustainable development programme and a commitment to minimising impact on the environment, it boasts one of the most sustainable buildings in the world.

The Bright Building, which opened in autumn 2013, is a monolithic hemp and timber frame building, which utilises a range of recycled materials and incorporates a variety of renewable energy technologies. It has a BREEAM ‘outstanding’ rating and, at the time of award, had the highest BREEAM design stage assessment on record of 94.95 per cent.

The consultant engineer on the project, James Allister of Silcock Leedham, explains: “In order to use the fewest possible electromechanical interventions as possible, The Bright Building has been carefully designed so that its physics drive everything – not the engineering. It’s fully naturally ventilated as a result of using WindowMaster technology from Trend, which is fully integrated 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 from having less technology to service and maintain.”

Natural ventilation is a means of allowing fresh air into a building space while, at the same time, removing stale air through passive means – using forces such as wind and pressure differences. This is important as, according to the BRE, people in Europe spend around 90 per cent of their time indoors. Each of us exhales between 10 and 75 litres of carbon dioxide (CO2) and around 175g of water vapour per hour, which contributes to a significant reduction in air quality over a relatively short period of time.

As well as making sure that a building has clean air, The Carbon Trust has found that a naturally ventilated building could have halve the energy costs of a building with MV. Moreover, the Danish Technological Institute has suggested that a naturally ventilated building produces 40 per cent less CO2 than a comparable mechanically ventilated building, primarily due to lower electricity consumption.

The WindowMaster system features MotorLink actuator technology, which allows window positions to be controlled and monitored accurately. Ian Knapton, project manager at Trend, explains: “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 also 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 overridden. 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.”

In order to provide the best possible climate control, the natural ventilation system can be configured to operate according to information that is fed back from CO2, outside air temperature, humidity, rain and wind sensors.

Paul Lambourne, mechanical project manager at the University of Bradford, concludes: “We are delighted with the natural ventilation system in The Bright Building. 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.”


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