AECOM and Morgan Sindall complete £30m net zero water research facility

The Centre for Resilience in Environment, Water and Waste (CREWW) at the University of Exeter’s Streatham campus

Infrastructure consultancy AECOM and contractor Morgan Sindall have completed a pioneering £30m research facility designed to explore sustainable solutions to the challenges facing the UK’s water infrastructure.

The 16,000 sq ft Centre for Resilience in Environment, Water and Waste (CREWW) at the University of Exeter’s Streatham Campus will work to future-proof UK and international water systems to better cope with floods, droughts and pollutants including microplastics.

The world-leading facility, which has been joint-funded by the University of Exeter, South West Water and Research England, has achieved BREAAM Excellent and becomes the water sector’s first carbon net-zero-in-operation for regulated loads research centre. 

The site's ‘living laboratory’ will have its energy and water efficiency continually monitored, analysed and optimised to serve as a purpose-built case study for the university’s wider estate and that of its global partners.

A multi-disciplinary team from AECOM acted as lead consultant on the scheme, which includes specialist laboratory facilities and designated space to encourage collaborative research and training between academics and experts from the water industry, government and NGOs.

Morgan Sindall began construction of the project in January 2022, with the centre opened this week at an event attended by government officials, research bodies and regulators.

AECOM’s carbon reduction strategy for CREWW encompassed both embodied and operational carbon. 

Lean design principles and sustainable concrete mixes minimised the project’s embodied carbon, while operational carbon was reduced through a fabric and operational energy approach to building design, energy-efficient laboratory equipment operation, and integration of renewable energy sources including heat pumps and solar panels.

Steven Jenkins, director and higher education sector lead at AECOM, said: “The quality of water infrastructure continues to be a topic of national importance, so we look forward to the positive impact and sustainable legacy this new best-in-class research facility will generate in years to come. 

“In addition to the world-leading research taking place there, CREWW has the potential to set a new benchmark for environmentally responsible infrastructure within research and higher education. 

“The level of technical excellence designed into the project means it’s a building fit for the future and one that will hopefully inspire others as we continue to work with clients in the public and private sector to decarbonise the built environment.” 

Brian Rice, area director at Morgan Sindall Construction in the South-west, added: "The delivery of this groundbreaking CREWW facility is a great step forward in sustainable infrastructure. 

“Together with AECOM, Morgan Sindall Construction has helped to realise a vision that will help shape the future of water management. This achievement reflects our unwavering commitment to excellence and underscores our role in creating facilities that will have a positive impact for generations to come."

Lisa Roberts, vice-chancellor and president at the University of Exeter, said: “The state-of-the-art equipment and specialist labs, including a sophisticated microbiology lab, will allow the CREWW team to make huge strides in analysing microplastics in South West Water’s operations, to understand the impact of these pollutants on ecosystems and discover solutions to create sustainable water networks for future generations.”

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