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Morgan Sindall constructing UK's greenest commercial building

Pictured L-R (kneeling down front row): Gavin Napper (area director Morgan Sindall), Ben Humphries (Architype), Steve Brock (contracts manager Morgan Sindall), (Back row standing): David Richardson (UEA Vice Chancellor), John French (CEO Adapt)

The Enterprise Centre, a new development by the Adapt Low Carbon Group at the gateway of the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, is on target to be UK’s greenest commercial building. This week, it has reached its highest construction point where traditional thatch meets modern solar panels on the roof.

Construction of this £11.6m building started in 2013, with support from UEA, the European Regional Development Fund, BBSRC, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and the Buildings Research Establishment. The project is managed by Adapt in close partnership with construction, infrastructure and design company Morgan Sindall and architects Architype. The aim is to construct one of Europe’s most sustainable buildings, which has meant challenging the project team to achieve industry leading standards.

To date the development of The Enterprise Centre is exceeding every expectation and is on course to achieve the highest sustainability building standards, these being BREEAM Outstanding and Passivhaus certification as well as having one of the lowest embodied carbon footprints of any building of its size in the UK.

Adapt has also set its sights on the Centre fostering innovation, stimulating smarter ways of working, promoting new industry standards and creating new supply chains. Well ahead of its opening in May 2015, it is already proving to be a catalyst for change and is on schedule to deliver these objectives.

The Enterprise Centre will include an innovation lab, 300-seat lecture theatre, flexible workspace, teaching and learning facilities and first class amenities to inspire and facilitate creativity and collaboration – an unparalleled working environment. By placing academic and commercial users side by side, it will encourage students to interact with businesses and be motivated to start their own enterprises.

At the topping out ceremony stakeholders ‘toasted’ the building with whisky, as well as trying their hand at thatching the clerestory panel, under the watchful eye of Master Thatcher, Stephen Letch.

Project Director and CEO of the Adapt Low Carbon Group, Dr John French, said: “It’s fantastic to have reached this milestone in developing UK’s greenest commercial building. Working from the foundations up, The Enterprise Centre is redefining low carbon sustainable construction in every aspect of the development.

“The building celebrates the area’s great natural landscapes of rolling fields and trees, and it embraces its natural resources using Corsican timber from Thetford Forrest and reed from Norfolk and Suffolk creating ‘East Anglia in building’.”

Gavin Napper, area director at Morgan Sindall, said: “The Enterprise Centre is an inspiring project that seamlessly marries cutting-edge techniques with traditional sustainable methods. The project team is dedicated to delivering an exemplar building that will serve as a catalyst for excellence in the region.

“Innovation has been at the core of the project and this will ensure that the methods used in the construction of the Enterprise Centre will continue to be used industry-wide, as the project strives to leave a lasting legacy, in the region and beyond.”

Ben Humphries, Associate Director at Architype said: “The aim from the outset was to design a unique, striking and welcoming Enterprise Centre, which acts as a demonstration of low carbon innovation and renewable materials, dynamically announces the entrance to the university and also elegantly interfaces with the historic Earlham Park context. We’re delighted with how this scheme has evolved out of a process of detailed and meaningful collaboration between the design team, UEA and wider stakeholders, and hope that the Passivhaus certification, BREEAM Outstanding and ultra-low embodied carbon building will become a benchmark for sustainable design.”

Investment in the new building is part of wider investment in Norwich Research Park to create and support new companies and jobs based on world-leading bioscience.

Highlights of The Enterprise Centre:
• Aims to have less than a quarter of embodied carbon impact of a regular building
• Incorporates 98% recycled steel for the reinforced concrete of the foundation
• Uses an innovative ‘cassette technique’ to thatch the building’s walls
• Has 70% ground granulated blast furnace mix (GBBS) as a cement replacement for the building’s foundation and structure which has reduced the embodied carbon to only 30% of a regular building
• Features renewable energy applications, including 480m2 solar panels, which is predicted to generate 43.58 MWh in the first year
• Recycles 58 tonnes of newspapers for insulation
• Aims to create more than 250 jobs and safeguard over 200 jobs
• Expects to provide free business support to over 600 businesses.