Wolfson College, Oxford: first-class graduates in energy efficiency


Source: Vortex Drone

Wolfson College in Oxford has set out to cut 75% of emissions on its main estate by March next year and plans to be net zero by 2030

When philosopher and founder of Wolfson College Sir Isaiah Berlin decided he wanted a modern, forward-thinking institution back in the 1960s, energy efficiency did not feature on his agenda. This was the era of nuclear power expansion, when the talk was of electricity that would be too cheap to meter and vast reserves of natural gas were being discovered in the North Sea. Discussions on global warming were confined to a few obscure committees while people carried on with their lives blissfully unaware of the extreme heatwaves and flooding that were coming down the track.

Berlin selected the architectural practice Powell and Moya to design the new, all-graduate University of Oxford college which sits on the banks of the River Cherwell a couple of miles north of the city centre. It features the quadrangles typical of an Oxford college and two fingers which extend down to the river enclosing an expanse of lawn. Generous floor-to-ceiling glazing allows students to make the most of the views over the sylvan landscape.

Unfortunately, the windows are single-glazed and recessed behind uninsulated concrete block fin walls that transmit every nuance of the external climate back into the building. The cold is kept at bay by a 50-year-old, 2.5MW heating system. “So, while we are very proud of the buildings and the architecture, the impact on carbon emissions is huge and I suspect we are probably one of the worst emitters in this region,” says Richard Morin, the bursar of Wolfson College.

This is PREMIUM content, available to subscribers only

You are not currently logged in. Subscribers may LOGIN here.

SUBSCRIBE to access this story

Gated access promo

SUBSCRIBE for UNLIMITED access to news and premium content

A subscription will provide access to the latest industry news, expert analysis & comment from industry leaders,  data and research - including our popular annual league tables. You will receive:

  • Print/digital issues delivered to your door/inbox
  • Unlimited access to building.co.uk including our archive
  • Print/digital supplements
  • Newsletters - unlimited access to the stories behind the headlines

Subscribe now 


Get access to premium content subscribe today