Leicester goes for Passivhaus option

Bidwells project manages the UK’s largest non-residential Passivhaus building: Leicester Uni’s new Centre for Medicine

Property consultants Bidwells has been appointed project manager for the UK’s largest non-residential Passivhaus building.

The project, to provide a new Centre for Medicine for the University of Leicester, aims to be completed by September 2015 and will cost around £30 million.

Ian Wakeling, a partner at Bidwells, explains more about the project and the concept of Passivhaus:

The project

A new Centre for Medicine is being developed at the University of Leicester which will bringtogether cutting-edge medical research and medical education for the first time under one roof

The University has also set itself a target to reduce its estate’s CO2 emissions by 60% by 2020.

The need for a new building and the need to reduce CO2 emissions prompted the University to consider a number of different construction options. In the end they opted to go for the Passivhaus model.

The Passivhaus concept is explained in more detail later, but in brief it results in a supremely efficient building. On average Passivhaus projects achieve 75% reduction in heating costs when compared with standard UK new build practices. This goes a substantial way to meeting the Government’s carbon reduction targets.

When complete, the project will be the biggest non-residential build to Passivhaus standard in the UK.

But there is far more to the project than carbon efficiency. The building, which will be nearly 13,000 square metres, will house the Medical Education, Health Sciences and Psychology departments. There will be teaching rooms, laboratories and offices which can accommodate more than 2,300 staff and students. It will be a major hub for medical activities at the University.

Bidwells’ role in the project

Bidwells was appointed to the role of project manager after the project secured planning consent. Bidwells had previously worked with the UOL on their project to re-glaze the James Stirling, Grade II listed Engineering Building.

Passivhaus has very particular design requirements; Bidwells are leading a highly experienced design team which fully grasps the complexities involved.

The firm’s involvement began in October 2012, One of the first tasks was to develop the design to the point where it could be sent out to tender. Following this Bidwells oversaw a competitive two stage tender process with two contractors and secured a compliant bid from Willmott Dixon, whounderstood the demands ofPassivhaus.

Building work started in November 2013 with construction scheduled to complete by July 2015. Allowing the client to carry out their fit out of the spacewith loose furnitureand equipment by September 2015

Bidwells also led two value engineering studies to reduce the overall project costs by changing the designs and specifications and looking at whether less expensive but equally appropriate materials could be used. So far, these two studies have achieved savings of around £1.7 million.

Construction work began on time in November and works are currently onprogramme, despite challenging weather conditions. There is positive and confident attitude amongst the team to provide a world-class facility to the university.

What is Passivhaus?

As the name suggests, Passivhaus is a German concept and was developed in the 1990s. It works in residential, commercial, public and industrial buildings and can be used anywhere in the world.

The Passivhaus concept is based on two key elements. Firstly, the requirement for heating and cooling to be dramatically reduced. This means that every Passivhaus project has very good thermal performance and exceptional airtightness.

The second element of Passivhaus is that it generates much of the remaining heat it needs passively. The sun, along with people and machinery inside the building, all generate heat and the little extra that is still needed comes from other methods.

To receive Passivhaus certification, a building must meet extremely strict standards.

Passivhaus can either be designed into new buildings or retrofitted and the concept is taking hold around the world. Whereas historically it was the preserve of the rich, or one-off buildings for enlightened owners, now it is becoming more common.

The future of Passivhaus

As the threat from climate change increases and governments around the world seek ever more diverse ways to reduce their carbon emissions, building methods which reduce the need for heat by 75 per cent are inevitably going to come to the fore. As examples, Passivhaus projects have recently been agreed, granted planning permission or nearly completed in places as diverse as Wolverhampton, Norwich and Hemel Hempstead.

Passivhaus is self-evidently not the cheapest way to construct buildings, but in an age where carbon reduction is becoming as important as cost, it unquestionably has a role to play.


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