Civil Engineering Building
The University of Cambridge Engineering Department’s Civil Engineering Building is the first phase of the Department’s vision in moving its entire activity from the City centre to their West Cambridge Site. The new building is the first of a range of modular and flexible laboratory and research buildings which will be built on the Eastern boundary of the West Cambridge inset master plan.
Sustainability and future proofing underpins the design of the building, which houses the new National Research Facility for Infrastructure Sensing (NRFIS). The building also includes 12 world-class, state-of-the-art laboratories focusing on a wide variety of civil engineering disciplines, including sensor development, structures, geomechanics and construction. It was designed to enable University researchers, industry and other academic institutes to work together on joint research programmes.
Working alongside Grimshaw Architects, we provided M&E Engineering, Acoustics, Building Physics & Modelling, BIM & Digital Engineering, Sustainability Consultancy and Sustainable Masterplanning Advice for this project.
Part of our role as Mechanical, Electrical and Environmental Engineers was to ensure that the principles set up within the original West Cambridge masterplan were robustly applied to the Civil Engineering Building. This formed an integral part of enabling the delivery of this low-energy, high performance, practical and upgradeable building.
The building is a great place to work, and a splendid example of how a pleasant building can be designed and built in an environmentally conscious manner." - Simon Guest, Head of Civil Engineering and Professor of Structural Mechanics at the Department of Engineering
The Civil Engineering building provides approximately 5000m² of laboratory, research and office space and includes a test laboratory with a large structural “strong floor”. This area is located at the heart of the building with its activity visible to visitors and academics. Daylight design combined with dynamic modelling helped to ensure that exemplary levels of natural daylight can enter the building without causing overheating, and the use of natural passive ventilation is promoted wherever appropriate.
Working with the University, we applied the Energy Cost Metric (ECM) to identify the most cost-effective way to achieve the biggest lifetime energy savings. The ECM was conceived by the late Sir David McKay and championed by the Energy Group, academics from Cambridge University Engineering Department (CUED). We translated the formula into a useable design tool for real-world projects by focusing on each RIBA work stage. Following detailed analysis, ECM influenced major design choices including to accept slightly lower-than-best-practice fabric performance and instead utilise the most efficient heating and cooling systems. It is unlikely this solution would have been proposed via regulatory calculations or common assessment schemes (such as BREEAM), but is a substantially lower energy, environmental strategy over the medium and long term, and becomes even more pertinent as the carbon intensity of the National Grid continues to fall.
The building is designed to minimise energy use throughout its life, from concept through to demolition. It has a number of key circular economy features, such as the choice of structural frame being based on minimum life cycle energy calculations, design for longevity and/or adaptability as well as design for disassembly and reuse (more in-depth information can be found in the Net Zero Carbon Guide). In-use energy consumption is minimised through the deployment of a high performance building fabric and through the reclaiming and redistribution of useful internal heat (from high gain spaces to those with a heating demand), using an innovate heat recovery ground source heat pump system.
The Civil Engineering Building achieved a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating and an ‘A’-rated EPC. Analysis of its first year of operation is currently under review.