Couch Perry Wilkes uses it’s low carbon expertise to design University of Leeds’ new energy research lab

The University of Leeds is to undertake world-class energy research in one of Europe’s most technologically advanced laboratories, thanks to the support of award-winning environmental engineering specialists Couch Perry and Wilkes.

The £7.9 million building is a showcase for energy research and will be a trailblazer for analysis and investigations into such areas as alternative energy systems, biomass, aviation/environment, fuel cells and hydrogen energy.

CPW, who were appointed to design the £2.8 million mechanical and engineeringservices, were tasked with ensuring that the 3,400 square metre Faculty of Engineering building met a low-energy target agreed with the university at the outset and attain a BREEAM ‘excellent’ rating.

As one of the UK’s leading exponents of PassivHaus principles, an advanced philosophy that encompasses energy-efficient techniques and helps to reduce energy costs significantly, CPW designed in several key features that would put the building at the forefront of technology.

The Laboratory has been developed using heavy mass building principles and advanced envelope engineering which reduces the need for air conditioning, and incorporates passive measures that minimise fabric heat loss and reduce heating load; passive solar shading that minimise solar gains; a high efficiency heat recovery air handling unit; solar hot water generation; combined heat and power (CHP) from an on-site generating station and extensive smart meters to monitor energy use.

The building, which took 18 months to complete, is also capable of maximising natural daylight and reducing the use of artificial lighting, thanks to the optimisation of glazing and installation of digital, photocell equipment that adjusts and dims light fittings. A passive infrared (PIR) absence detector, which works in conjunction with the photocell dimmer, means that lights turn off when rooms are unoccupied, and dim when natural light intensity increases.

The Energy Research Building, designed by architects Fairhurst Design Group, was one of several extensive mechanical and engineering projects that CPW has led at the university, which is investing in new buildings and refurbishments on the campus continually.

John Hauton, the CPW Director who led this project, said: “Through the Partnership Framework Agreement we have with the University of Leeds, we have used our technical skills to design a very complex mechanical and engineering system for this new building, which will be a showcase for energy research and aims to raise the national and international profile of energy research at the University of Leeds.

“The brief was challenging and it was incumbent on us to incorporate as many energy-efficient systems into a building that will lead on global research in this field.

“We are very proud of what we have achieved at the university in terms of design and build.”

CPW is also working on the refurbishment of the engineering services at the Civil, Electrical & Mechanical Schools; a feasibility study for the refurbishment of the Grade II listed Clothworkers South and Central buildings; and a low-energy undergraduate library, which aims to attain a BREEAM ‘excellent’ rating.

Other works at the University have included the detailed design of a close control lab facility, a high performance server room and works to the campus 11 KV electrical infrastructure.