£9.5m Institute for Manufacturing building first at the university to have biomass boiler

After Yale took up the green challenge a few months ago by commissioning Foster + Partners to design its new School of Management Campus, it is good to see that our own esteemed halls of learning are getting in on the act.

Institute for Manufacturing, Cambridge

The Arup-designed Institute for Manufacturing at Cambridge University has been given the green light by the planning authority and is now on site.

This new 4500m² faculty building for the engineering department will be the first at the university to have a biomass boiler and it signals the university’s commitment to build BREEAM excellent on all future projects.

To be built on the university’s western campus, the £9.5m complex will bring together different academic activities in a naturally ventilated, low-energy building that has been planned around a series of communal spaces.

The building’s form and orientation are designed to minimize wind and motorway noise disturbance. It is to be well insulated with zero ozone depletion materials and clad in FSC certified Larch, which will be stained in different colours to contrast the natural surroundings.

The exposed thermal mass of the building will be utilized for night-time purging of heat, while solar gain will be minimized by the specification of low-e glass and external shading. The large common room has a roof light, which is designed for the future installation of a PV array, while a building management system will operate high level windows and air vents, according to information supplied by an on-site weather station. Occupants will have control over their internal environment though, via openable windows and blinds.

The research offices within the faculty will look into a courtyard, similar to historic university buildings. However, unlike those traditional designs where the courtyard, surrounded by cloisters was often seen as sacred “don’t walk on the grass” territory, Arup Associates’ design will see the central open space also serving as the Institute’s main entrance, via a ground level walkway under one elevation.

Institute for Manufacturing, Cambridge

Landscaping to the courtyard and surrounding areas is being designed in association with ecologists to provide ‘wild habitat’ for native species.

Internally, the building is totally naturally lit and ventilated. It is designed over a series of half levels, allowing it to step down from front to back across the sloping site, saving on construction cut-and-fill costs. The change in levels has enabled Arup Associates to be creative with communal spaces and include a main common room, which forms the social heart of the building. A south-facing terrace gives the common room a visual link to the landscape beyond.

As well as environmental considerations, the emphasis in the design is on creating a sense of community within the faculty, to promote interaction and exchange of ideas as part of the Institute’s day-to-day culture. The building will combine flexible laboratory space with a variety of undergraduate teaching and lecture rooms as well as the generous top-lit research offices, which look into the courtyard.

The design looks like it will be an interesting addition to Cambridge’s building stock and it posts a good marker for future energy conscious buildings at the university.

The building is due for completion in Spring 2009.