Project description

The dynamic new gateway to the University of East Anglia (UEA) campus, The Enterprise Centre is pioneering in its construction techniques. With dual certification of Passivhaus and BREEAM Outstanding accreditation, this exemplary low carbon building uses an abundance of natural materials to help it connect seamlessly with the environment around it.

Amongst a number of world firsts is the innovative thatched cladding, constructed offsite and lifted on to the building façades as a series of perfectly-crafted, vertically-hung panels. The building's timber frame comes from FSC approved sources, including Corsican Pine from Thetford Forest just 30 miles from site – never before has this been used in structural timber frames.

The sub base is 100% recycled, a unique low carbon concrete mix was used in the building foundations, and the building's insulation was produced from 100% recycled newspapers. Other local natural materials include Norfolk flint, hemp fabric, re-processed glass, re-purposed mahogany benches, reclaimed oak, clay plaster and nettle boards.

Thanks to these innovations and bio-based materiality approach, the Enterprise Centre’s embodied carbon is only a quarter that of conventionally constructed HE buildings. The building has been designed to achieve a 100-year lifecycle, and full soft landings with three year post occupancy evaluations will enable the building to perform at its optimum from the outset, ensuring a positive legacy is created.

Responsible business



A commitment to employing as many local suppliers as possible has seen us engage the Forestry Commission to source local timber from Thetford Forest. We supported local thatchers in the achievement of their CSCS and safety qualifications, meaning they are now able to work industry wide. The project also assisted over 300 SMEs with tours and demonstrations, creating more than 200 local jobs. Being considerate to the community, University and surrounding neighbours was important – site team members met monthly with community and University groups ensuring our approach was built around their needs. This helped the project score 45/50 under the Considerate Constructors Scheme.



Dual certification of Passivhaus and BREEAM Outstanding underpins a host of bio-based materials and renewable technologies that have been selected to achieve a 100-year design life. This includes Norfolk Reed and Straw, FSC Thetford timber, reclaimed oak, re-processed glass, clay plaster, nettle boards, recycled rubber, Norfolk flint, hemp fabric rainwater harvesting and 480 m2 solar panels. This all contributes to the predicted lifecycle emissions of 443kg/CO2/m2 across the building's 100 year life.



From a local approach to the procurement of subcontractors and materials the project re-invested significantly in the local economy. Using the Local Multiplier Tool (LM3), we were able to identify that for every £1 invested in the project, an additional £1.34 was re-invested in the local economy (within 25 miles).


Working on a live University Campus, next to a busy community park, communication and sensitivity to the neighbours was key. We joined the local community groups and met monthly to help build our approach around their needs.

At groundworks stage, dissolution features were found in the ground – in order to stabilise the site, we scanned the site and drilled test bore holes to identify the locations of these sink holes. Specially designed low carbon concrete rafts were then poured before the foundations to cap any areas of risk.

Using a globally unique low carbon concrete, thatched cladding system and Thetford Corsican pine as part of the frame, numerous tests were carried out to validate designs during the project. Thatched panels were pre-hung on the scaffold to test the installation, strength and look, early concrete pads were poured, drilled and inspected to ensure the aggregate levelled consistently throughout the pour, and strength tests and certification for the Corsican pine assured structural engineers that the timber could be used for the frame.


“I simply can’t stop smiling! What you have achieved here is fantastic. Absolutely amazing!”

Ed Suttie


Education Estates Sustainable Achievement Award

Education Estates Project of the Year - Highly Commended

CN Awards 2016 - Sustainable Project of the Year