energy efficiency

The University of Leicester unveils state of the art Passivhaus building



The University of Leicester’s new Medical Centre is the largest Passivhaus building in the world. Photo credit: University of Leicester.

By Anders Lorenzen

The University of Leicester in the UK has unveiled a new state of the art £42 million building, using the most advanced green building technology. The new building will , for the first time, bring together the University’s leading academics, researchers, clinicians and students . They are currently spread across multiple sites in the city, and the Medical Centre will completely transform medical teaching and improve the lives of many patients in the region and beyond. When it comes to green construction, the Medical Centre building has received the highly acclaimed Passivhaus Certification. It also becomes the largest Passivhaus construction in the UK.
The Passivhaus standard was developed in Germany in the early 1990s, and it is now recognized as the fastest-growing energy performance standard in the world. A key component of Passivhaus is a ‘fabric first’ approach to construction.  And thus the building is incredibly well insulated and air tight, which prevents heat leakage through the windows, walls, floor and roof.  It is expected to reduce the energy bill for the University’s new facility by six times due to the excellent thermal performance. This will also ensure increased comfort for its staff, students and visitors as they will get to enjoy a state-of-the-art heating, cooling and ventilation system. Therefore, the building can record a -2 energy performance rating, and it is placed in the A+ category, which is top notch for energy ratings.

The green roof designed to attract insect and birds. Photo credit: The University of Leicester.
But the building will also have many other environmental benefits, such as a green wall and roof. These assets will showcase the University’s commitment to the environment, and will also benefit the local biodiversity environment. The green wall and roof will have a planting regime that has been designed to attract insects and birds. This will encourage pollination and thereby promote biodiversity. The external planting will also help to reduce the overall temperature of the building.
Solar panels on the roof will help to bring down energy bills. Photo credit: The University of Leicester.
An added benefit provided by the new Centre is that of being an example that promotes and demonstrates of energy conservation and efficiency in the built environment.
The green wall will act as insulation and increase biodiversity. Photo credit: The University of Leicester.
Dave Vernon, who is the Project Manager at the University of Leicester stated: “Users from the College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology have been heavily involved in the design of the building and through our soft landing process are fully engaged in learning how to work in such an innovative building. Many of the myths surrounding Passivhaus buildings have been dispelled and users are now energised and excited about the imminent move.”
The Passivhaus concepts have both fans and critics. The myths, which have now been debunked , Dave Vernon says, are issues such as the air being too dry, and that the building will overheat during the summer. As explained above the green wall and roof will prevent summer overheating.
The project was a collaborative effort between the University, the contractors who built it, Willmott Dixon, and the architects who designed it, Associated Architects.
James Elliment, operations manager at Willmott Dixon, said of the project: “This is a hugely significant project not only for the University and the region but also the UK as a whole. Delivering a Passivhaus on such a large scale is not without its challenges, and we employed a number of energy efficient mechanisms to ensure that this standard was met. The building boasts many intelligent energy efficiencies including a ground to air heat exchange system, active solar shading and embedded soffit cooling which aids in the reduction of energy used within the building. We have also installed solar photovoltaic panels on the roof. Part of the roof is covered in wildflowers and the building has a green wall of vegetation – all contributing to the buildings sustainable credentials.”
Delivering a Passivhaus standard is no mean feat, according to Warren Jukes, Director of Associated Architects. He said: “Achieving Passivhaus accreditation is a major achievement for a building of this scale and complexity. It is the culmination of 5 years work by our team and we are immensely proud to have delivered one of the lowest energy facilities of its kind in the country. Its significance shouldn’t be underestimated, as it is now a national exemplar and energy performance benchmark for future developments of this scale and complexity.”
Those remarks are backed up by the CEO of the Passivhaus Trust, Jon Bootland: “It is fantastic that the University of Leicester Centre for Medicine has finally reached Passivhaus certification. Delivering a Passivhaus successfully at this scale is very challenging and has been of great interest to all our members and industry experts.”

The people and organisations involved in creating this project, as well as everyone who will benefit from it, would be keen to shout about the many benefits of the project. However, the unveiling of this project comes just half a year after the UK government abandoned the incentives that had been created to encourage the building of more efficient homes and buildings.


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