Cygnum Timber Frame - Enterprise Centre

Project Details

Client - Adapt Low Carbon Group/UEA
Architect - Architype
Timber Manufacture - Cygnum Timber Frame
M&E, acoustic and structural engineer - BDP
Main Contractor - Morgan Sindall

Project Overview

Low carbon building design isn't just about energy performance. In addition to taking a fabric-first approach to energy performance – and thereby locking in CO2 savings for the lifespan of the building –it must also tackle the embodied energy of materials, and where possible tap into local supply chains to reduce transport emissions. It's a big ask, but the UEA Enterprise Centre shows what's possible.

The centre achieved the passive house standard, which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has described as "The most stringent of standards with regard to heating requirements."

This exemplary energy performance was achieved using a timber-based build approach –chain of custody certified throughout – that reduced the centre's embodied energy to circa ¼ to 1/5 of many new university buildings, thereby debunking the argument that efforts to reduce operational energy use risk being undermined by the environmental impact of a beefed-up building fabric.

Exploding the myth that British timber sources aren't suited to structural uses in buildings, the centre's timber frame is constructed substantially of Corsican pine that grew just 30 miles away in Thetford Forest, along with British sitka spruce, helping to sequester CO2. The building also includes a number of timber innovations, including a CLT lift shaft, an OSB-based airtight layer which achieved a score of 0.22 ACH @50 Pa – blitzing the passive house target of 0.6 ACH – and a glulaminated-column canope manufactured from Thetford Forest Timber at the entrance, an unmissable visual clue of the building's ecological timber innovations . In addition to the unprecedented use of prefabricated thatch panel cassettes on spruce frames, the façade's cladding also makes use of timber recycled from old lab desks from within the campus.

The centre's potential to help redefine perceptions of timber use in buildings is greatly aided by its use as a hub for sustainable businesses, and its use for sustainable building events – such as the 2016 Association for Environment Conscious Building conference.

Efforts to collaborate with local trades and suppliers may also point the way towards the development of local supply chains and networks of expertise to help equip the construction sector with the knowhow and the confidence to ensure that timber innovations play a central role in the roll out of low energy buildings throughout the UK.