Energy efficiency top at one of UK’s biggest universities

Malcolm Jaques explains the offsite construction of Manchester Metropolitan University’s new Birley Fields campus

As a means of keeping energy costs and carbon emissions to a minimum, Manchester Metropolitan University recently commissioned Warmafloor, a provider of underfloor heating and cooling based in Fareham, to design and install a bespoke ceiling cooling system off site. This was part of a £350m investment in its brand new 15-acre Birley Fields campus, which opened in September 2014. 

In order to develop and install the ceiling according to the university’s requirements and within a tight timeline, Warmafloor worked closely with Creagh Concrete to incorporate Warmafloor’s embedded coil technology in pre-cast concrete panels offsite via an indoor controlled process. The panels were quickly installed in the Academic Building, reducing both building time and lowering labour costs significantly. 

Designed to train and develop our future leaders, universities have a duty to provide a comfortable, healthy and safe environment for students to enhance their study and leisure time by creating the optimum temperature throughout the changeable seasons. At the same time, the annual energy costs for the further and higher education (FHE) sector in the UK add up to approximately £400 million. This energy use results in CO2 emissions of around three million tonnes per year. For these reasons, schools and universities are striving to be energy efficient and keep heating and cooling costs to a minimum. 

Against this background, Manchester Metropolitan University, the fifth-largest university in the UK, commissioned Warmafloor to design a bespoke ceiling cooling system to deliver optimum comfort for its students and staff as well as meet the stringent cost and energy saving targets. Working in close collaboration with Creagh Concrete, Warmafloor embed their system into pre-cast concrete panels. This new approach boosts efficiency across Manchester Metropolitan University’s modern Birley Fields Academic Building in Hulme, south of Manchester city centre. 

The Birley Fields Academic Building

Advantages of controlled environment off-site construction

Quality and safety is of the utmost importance in any building project. For these reasons, the ceiling paneling was manufactured in a controlled environment off-site, making it easier to monitor the mix, placement of the coils and curing, thus guaranteeing the quality of the finished cast. This indoor controlled process also removed the challenge of installing coils and pouring concrete in poor weather, which can affect the constitution of the precast mix and the method by which it is installed, as well as add weeks on to project completion deadlines. 

Investing in the future

Environmental efficiency is central to the design and operation of the 20,000sqm Birley Fields Academic Building. The new 15-acre Birley Fields campus is the final part of the £350m investment in new facilities for the University, which is totally committed to cutting its carbon emissions. Over the past year the carbon footprint of each of its 34,000 students has been reduced by 5.5%. In the long-term, Manchester Metropolitan University is aiming to lower the carbon footprint of existing campus operations by 60 per cent and working towards a zero carbon, zero waste and zero water campus. 

The ceiling cooling system

Award-winning long-term energy strategy

The system of ceiling cooling coils embedded into the concrete panels was the ideal design partner for the Manchester Metropolitan University Academic Building, providing a fair faced concrete finish in line with the building’s modern architectural style. Forming part of the University’s Estates Investment Strategy, the Academic Building is designed to meet certified BREEAM assessment rating, the world’s foremost environmental assessment method and rating system for buildings, continuing the University’s heritage of environmental responsibility. In recognition of its long-term energy efficient strategy, Manchester Metropolitan University was awarded the top position in the People & Planet Green League’s list of the UK’s greenest universities. 


Malcolm Jaques is Commercial Manager of Warmafloor.

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