Step forward for Passivhaus development

The Enterprise Centre at the University of East Anglia has undergone its first round of airtightness tests

UEA’s Enterprise Centre has been developed by the Adapt Low Carbon Group and delivered by construction, infrastructure and design company Morgan Sindall plc, with architects and Passivhaus designers Architype. In its test for airtightness, the new development scored 0.31 ACH @ 50 Pa – almost half the requisite level of air leakage to achieve Passivhaus status.

Work on the scheme is nearing completion and the airtightness tests are a critical element in measuring how energy efficient the building is and how ‘passive’ it will be.

The tests measure how much air escapes from or enters into a building every hour. In order to be a Passivhaus development, a building can only lose or gain 0.6 percent of its internal air volume in that period. The project team’s primary aim is to ensure that any potential gaps in the building are sealed and that it is as airtight as possible.

Airtightness is crucial to the effectiveness of a Passivhaus building. The connections between the various components of the building, such as the floor-to-wall, wall-to-roof or window junctions, are often the areas where air leakage can occur, as movement between the different materials can lead to air loss.

John French, CEO of the Adapt Low Carbon Group and project director for The Enterprise Centre, said: “We’re delighted with the building’s performance in the recent airtightness tests. The Enterprise Centre has been designed to inspire, and it’s fantastic to see it is already exceeding expectations.

“Passivhaus is really taking off in the region, with highly energy-efficient houses, schools and commercial buildings being built throughout the east of England. The vision for The Enterprise Centre is that it will become a focal point for green construction expertise, housing a variety of business tenants that specialise in this rapidly growing sector.”

Gavin Napper, Morgan Sindall’s area director, said: “This is a brilliant result to achieve in a building’s first airtightness test, well above the results that we had hoped to achieve at this stage of testing. It usually takes a number of test runs to achieve the required score of 0.6, so to have smashed this result by almost half, on a commercial building of this scale on the very first test is truly remarkable.

“Although we have already achieved the required result for Passivhaus, we will still continue with the majority of the planned pipeline of tests. We’re keen to see if we are able to lower the score any further and look forward to carrying out the final test once the building is complete.”

Ben Humphries, associate director from Architype, said, “We are delighted that the extensive work that went into the design and detailing of the sealed envelope, and then the meticulous attention by the whole project team during the construction period has paid off. It’s a great result to get in an initial air test.”

The Enterprise Centre will include an innovation lab, 300-seat lecture theatre, flexible workspace, teaching and learning facilities. Academic and commercial users will work side by side, with the aim of encouraging students to interact with businesses and be motivated to start their own enterprises.

The project is being supported by the UEA, the European Regional Development Fund, BBSRC and the Buildings Research Establishment. It is being managed by the Adapt Low Carbon Group and delivered by principal contractor Morgan Sindall plc.

The testing on the building was carried out by BSRIA (Building Services Research and Information Association) UK.

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