North Somerset retrofit reveals secrets to success

Posted by on Feb 27, 2013 | No Comments

Our latest event was a ‘seeing is believing tour’ hosted by North Somerset Council at the award winning Town Hall of Weston-Super-Mare. Winner of the ‘Public Building Retrofit Project of the Year 2012’, the award celebrates the most inspiring retrofit projects, and is the only retrofit in the country to achieve an EPC rating of ‘A’. It did this by transforming an archaic 1970’s dated building into a dynamic open plan layout which incorporates the local library, council offices, public council services and the hub for police enquiries.

As part of the office amalgamation programme, it was designed to maximise efficiency and play a key part in condensing the number of council offices from 18, to just two.

Nigel Dyke from Alec French Architects introduced the design brief.

The key design brief was to provide a facility where only 7 desks were required for every 10 members of staff, changing from a cellular building to an open plan format. To achieve this, the focus was on transforming the mind-set of the work place to: ‘our place, not my place’ – implementing ‘hot desks’ and break out zones. The layout created the challenge of acoustics and breaking the eye – mouth line, this was approached with well-placed dividing boards.

As well as the incorporated offices being an opportunity to create a space that broke the barriers between the community and the local Council, it was also designed to make the North Somerset council more energy efficient, reducing its carbon footprint. To achieve this, air tightness and the use of natural ventilation and light were incorporated.

Graeme Smith, Associate at Ramboll, explained how their work with Willmott Dixon contractors delivered the low carbon project.

To ensure the new town hall would be more energy efficient and low carbon, several types of technology were integrated into the design:

  • One of the most significant changes was cold aisle containment units, used to control the temperature of the servers. The result was an 80% reduction in required server cooling compared to conventional methods.
  • Daylighting: Utilising as much natural light as possible, while also using active LED lighting where required.
  • Mixed mode ventilation: Using the central atrium to combine conventional methods of temperature control with natural ventilation.
  • Renewable energy systems: 240 meters squared of Photovoltaics provide 8% of the building’s energy needs. The use of heat pump heating/cooling in ground floor areas provides 7.4% of the building’s thermal energy demand.

Through the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements, the total carbon emission for the building is expected to reduce by 60%, saving approximately £700,000 a year in energy bills.

Following the presentations, participants picked out the key lessons of commercial retro fitting.

  1. Integration of energy efficient methods with the design team.
  2. Minor increase in capital spend can lead to significant energy benefits.
  3. Post occupation evaluation: To achieve and maintain targets requires seasonal commissioning and fine tuning of set points.

You can find more information in the presentations below.

Nigel Dyke

Graeme Smith

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