Higher education: latest news

15 September 2020
Here is the latest news in Higher Education covering the growing trend for net zero carbon solutions, and two project updates. 
Credit NBBJ

Credit NBBJ


Simona Peet. Ramboll

Simona Peet

Project Director
T: +44 7587 659 716
Fergal Kelly. Ramboll

Fergal Kelly

Project Director
T: +44 7920 221 321

We are proud to have contributed to the astounding progress of Higher Education developments in the past 20 years and remain ever mindful of this continually evolving sector and the requirements of our long-term clients and relationships.

We see that the sector is supporting the creation of sustainable societies where people and nature flourish – with both students and staff proactively leading environmental protection initiatives, and universities increasingly recognising the importance of health and wellness which is helping them to reduce absenteeism and support mental health issues.

COVID-19 has of course presented a new challenge. Estates and Campuses are being reconfigured to connect with the local business community, adapting to the COVID-19 disruption that entails a new blended learning environment balancing a commitment to on-line learning and maintaining a level of contact between students and staff. We hope you enjoy our update, and if we can help you get in touch.

Net zero carbon solutions

More clients than ever are placing sustainability at the core of their design as they consider the UK legal requirement for Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050 and their overall commitment to climate action.  Delivering on this legislative imperative, coupled with ensuring assets perform over their lifetime will deliver more resilient and successful places – a win for all. 

It’s great to see industry collaborations that are already embracing the changing approach to design, procurement and construction for all building types. Life Cycle Thinking, Health & Wellbeing and Carbon Neutrality were identified as the three most important trends in our latest Sustainable Buildings Market Study.

This focus is helping to drive down embodied carbon, optimise fabric performance and operational efficiency, whilst ensuring a high quality user experience. Our teams have a suite of innovative tools that are supporting those early design decisions that have a big impact on performance, such as our digital building assessment tool.

Our sustainable buildings experts are supporting clients as they deliver net zero, climate resilient assets and the Ramboll client sustainability tool that aligns with World Green Building Council manifesto & the UN Sustainable Development Goals is another of our latest innovations. Supporting clients with a holistic view of their sustainability agenda, it helps to create a tailored strategy that aligns with aspirations and tracks progress as projects develop. Contact us to find out more.

A bold vision to reduce embodied carbon

The latest report on embodied carbon from the World Green Building Council ‘Bringing embodied carbon upfront’ publication co-authored by Ramboll provides a bold new vision for how buildings and infrastructure around the world can reach 40% less carbon emissions by 2030, and achieve 100% net zero emissions buildings by 2050. We’ll be launching a series of Climate Action webinars over the coming months, including how best to tackle embodied carbon, watch this space!

Creating the case for circular built environment

Accelerating the transition to a net zero economy will be vital to achieving the Paris Agreement efforts to limit temperature rise to 1.5oC, which is why we are proud to be supporting the World Business Council for Sustainable Development to create a business case for the circular built environment. Creating the business case for sustainable solutions is crucial to helping clients make better informed decisions and to accelerating this change. So too is sharing knowledge and insights, so we’ll keep you up to date with our progress.

Oxford University: Life and Mind building

Oxford University has appointed Ramboll to design their largest project to date, the £122m Life and Mind building, housing the Experimental Psychology, Plant Sciences and Zoology departments. Ramboll is providing structural, civil, geotechnical and façade engineering services, with the project currently at the end of RIBA Stage 3. The 25,000m2 building includes a single basement level and five floors above ground, providing laboratories, lecture theatres, and areas for public engagement. Terraced office floors connect labs, study and social spaces, while a flexible atrium runs through the building, providing breakout areas for meetings, presentations and social events.

The building is designed to Passivhaus principles but foregoes certification, enabling the University to utilize the sustainability measures that best suit their needs and infrastructure, whilst reducing running costs substantially. Ramboll optimized the foundation raft design to reflect the benefit of the 400 existing piles below the building. This allowed us to reduce the raft slab thickness by 500mm, saving £2m from the cost plan. Likewise, our detailed consideration of the basement construction sequence, particularly around the existing basement of the Chemistry building, enabled us to define the optimum solution which combined an efficient sequence with safe working around the existing basement.

University of Leeds: Business School

The Esther Simpson Building is a new build 6 storey construction providing new teaching facilities for the University’s business school. In line with the University’s drive towards a zero carbon campus, this low energy building utilises a fabric first approach together with passive design solutions.

High thermal properties and low air permeability ensures heat losses and direct solar gains are minimised. Hybrid phase change technology combined with temperature and CO2 control provides a controlled optimised energy strategy delivering heated and cooled fresh air throughout the teaching rooms. 

High efficiency mechanical ventilation and heat recovery units provide controlled fresh air to the lecture theatres. Low temperature hot water (LTHW) radiators provide the heating. Heating zone valves within each space interface with the phase change technology preventing conflict.

The University’s steam district heating network provides the primary source of heating via steam to LTHW plate heat exchangers. A mixed mode ventilation system serves the atrium and break out space. Natural stack effect driven ventilation is utilised when the weather permits, a MVHR system takes over when weather doesn’t permit.

In addition to this a PV array mounted on the roof generates electricity, reducing the electrical consumption from the grid. LED lighting incorporating day light linking and absence detection control within all occupied spaces provides a high efficiency, low energy lighting solution.

Ramboll is providing mechanical & electrical engineering, building physics, and sustainability advice. The project is currently under construction.




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