Work has begun on a pioneering sustainable office retrofit in Cambridge, which aims to set new benchmarks for low energy use, carbon emissions and impact on natural resources, as well as user experience and wellbeing.
The 1930s Telephone Exchange, to be named Entopia, will be the new headquarters for the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability (CISL), rehousing its Cambridge-based staff, which are currently spread out over five buildings.
Entopia is the vision of CISL Founder Director Dame Polly Courtice who has led the Institute for more than 30 years
“CISL’s new HQ at The Entopia Building will exemplify and enable our mission to support and inspire the leadership and innovation we need to transition to sustainable economy.”
The £12.8m retrofit has been supported by a £6m donation from digital energy company Envision Group and a £3m grant from the European Regional Development fund and is being delivered through the University’s Estates Division by a team of leading sustainability-focussed firms including long-standing ASBP patron member, Architype.
Overall, the retrofit is projected to reduce whole life carbon emissions by 80% compared to a standard office refurbishment. The project is hoping to achieve multiple sustainable building certifications, including the Passivhaus ‘EnerPHit’ low-energy standard, BREEAM (Outstanding), Well (Gold) certification, alongside the application of ‘circular economy’ principles to minimise the volume and impact of natural and made-made resources used in the building. Architype have a track record of successful Passivhaus projects using low-carbon materials and will be using their Eccolab® tool to evaluate the cost, carbon and energy of a project’s lifecycle, as well as promoting the circular economy by evaluating waste streams and health and well-being impacts.
The retrofit aims to meet these standards through a series of measures, including internal wall insulation and triple glazing, which in turn have reduced the size of the air source heat pump installation. This also means, apart from the windows, a solar power photovoltaic array on the roof will be the only other major external alteration as there will be no need to upgrade electrical substation capacity.
Wendy Bishop, Associate & Passivhaus Designer at Architype said:
“The Entopia Building aims to show building owners what can be achieved with a clear focus on cutting operational, embodied and whole life carbon in existing buildings, while creating beautiful and healthy places to work.
“The project balances the technical demands of meeting the EnerPHit standard with the sensitivities of dealing with a building in a conservation area. Focussing on internal finishes and using bio-based materials that met the multiple certification requirements, as well as using Architype’s pioneering ECCOlab embodied cost and carbon software, we were able to radically reduce embodied carbon and enhance air quality.
“We are excited to be involved in this exemplar collaborative project which demonstrates what can be achieved when ambitious targets are set.”
CISL intends to share the case study of project for use in the wider building sector, both within and outside higher education to contribute to CISL’s mission to develop and provide leadership for a sustainable economy, paving the way for wider change in how buildings are commissioned, managed and delivered to align with global and local sustainability ambitions.