The University of Leicester’s new George Davies Centre (formerly the Centre for Medicine) is the UK’s largest Passivhaus building and brings together academics, researchers, clinicians and students who were once spread across multiple university sites across Leicester.
The £42m centre is part of the University of Leicester’s strategy to improve and upgrade the facilities used by the School of Medicine. The George Davies Centre is an exemplar project in terms of low energy design, it is expected that the new teaching and research facility will reduce the energy bill by up to six times with the target total energy consumption at just 80kWh/m², compared to the previous building's 500kWh/m².
Ramboll delivered structural engineering, geotechnical engineering, below ground drainage design, and fire engineering services for the 12,836m² centre, which consists of lecture theatres, teaching rooms, offices, dry lab research facilities and support spaces to over 2,350 staff and students.
Designing a sustainable building
The ambition for the George Davies Centre was to deliver a sustainable building that minimises the energy demand for space heating and cooling, whilst also creating excellent indoor comfort levels. This is primarily achieved by adopting the Passivhaus (fabric first) approach to the design.
The Passivhaus philosophy aims to achieve extremely low energy buildings through the implementation of passive design measures, focussing on outstanding levels of thermal insulation and air-tightness. The Passivhaus (fabric first) design approach allowed the project team to deliver an exceptionally energy efficient building, primarily by minimising energy losses through the building fabric.
The sustainability credentials of the Centre were confirmed when it won 'Project of the Year' at the 2018 CIBSE awards (Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers).
The design of the building structure, which features three blocks of varying height up to six storeys, is tailored to suit the requirements of the environmental strategy. Heat losses through the façade are minimised through a combination of a highly insulated building fabric and the strict control of thermal bridges through the building envelope. Extensive utilisation of thermal mass is intended to help to maintain a comfortable internal environment. The building design also allowed the very low air permeability targets of less than 1m³/m²/hr to be achieved.
Innovative heating and cooling system
In addition to the fabric first approach, the ventilation system incorporates a large Ground air heat exchanger (GAHE), comprising a 1.6km network of pipes buried beneath the building through which fresh air is drawn. The GAHE provides free summertime cooling and wintertime heating to the incoming air, further reducing the building’s energy demand.
The site also benefits from 150m² photovoltaic array to accommodate the building’s electrical demand, has triple glazing and 7km of soffit cooling tubes, cast into the post-tensioned concrete floor slabs. Careful external planting has also been incorporated to help reduce the overall temperature of the building, and a green wall and roof planting regime have been included to attract insects and birds.
Passivhaus is the leading international low energy, design standard. Over 37,000 buildings have been designed, built and tested to this standard worldwide. The Passivhaus trust aims to promote the principles of Passivhaus as a highly effective way of reducing energy use and carbon emissions from buildings in the UK, as well as providing high standards of comfort and building health. For more information about the Passivhaus trust click here.