CPW brings energy expertise to £80m university science facility

The £80m Molecular Sciences Building at the University of Birmingham - photo credit Associated Architects

A new flagship university building with groundbreaking sustainability features designed by MEP consultancy CPW has been handed over to the University of Birmingham.

The £80m Molecular Sciences building will be the base for more than 500 scientists leading the field in world-class research in chemical, environmental and biomolecular sciences.

Innovative technology and a range of sustainable solutions have been used throughout the design and construction of the 11,250m² phase 1 of the masterplan, now home to cutting-edge laboratories including 171 high-efficiency fume-cupboards, as well as lecture rooms, offices and collaborative spaces. 

An experienced design team has collaborated effectively to help the building achieve BREEAM Excellent accreditation and an EPC A [14] rating. 

The project includes a two-storey energy centre, created on the edge of the site by CPW to mitigate the impact vibrations on the sensitive experiments and research to be undertaken. 

CPW also used pioneering heat recovery technology to reduce the building’s energy waste and consumption, with the latest air source heat pumps cutting carbon emissions by as much as 70%.

Antonios Agapakis, director at CPW, said: “This has been a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate our skills in bringing progressive and sustainable buildings to life, which will have a positive effect on the environment and our net zero carbon ambitions.

“It has been a major project involving in-depth collaboration with a number of partners and the result is a world-class facility that can take the university’s research in these pioneering fields to new levels.”

CPW’s building services engineering expertise has seen a number of sustainability measures introduced, including renewable electrical energy generation via a rooftop photovoltaic system - this supplies phase 1 with nearly 84,000 kWh of sustainable energy per year.

The building also maximises heat recovery efficiency in ventilation services around the laboratory zone - to reduce the building’s energy waste and consumption

Super-efficient air-source heat pumps decarbonise the building’s energy supply - and provide hot water through reusing heat removed from its cooling load

Carbon benchmarking on the scheme will be used to address further carbon reductions in planned future phases of the site’s development - expected to be 50,000 sq m when completed. 

The ‘as-built’ model of phase 1 will act as a digital twin to the physical building and will contain all the carbon data associated with building materials and elements. 

The first phase has been a collaboration with the university, led by Morgan Sindall Construction working with CPW, Associated Architects, Ramboll and MGAC.

CPW’s involvement followed the success of its complex work on the university’s new £40m energy-efficient Collaborative Teaching Laboratory on the Edgbaston campus, reaching both BREEAM Excellent and EPC A ratings.

The Molecular Sciences building will provide a designated hub for the university’s School of Chemistry and facilities for the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (GEES).

The University of Birmingham’s aim is for the research undertaken in the extensive facility to help address some of the biggest scientific challenges of our time, including using materials for energy applications or healthcare, making plastics recyclable and the environmental effects of drugs in the ecosystem.

Trevor Payne, the University of Birmingham’s director of estates, said: “This building is vital in developing important research and enabling spaces for academic and commercial partnerships to flourish. 

“It also reflects our ambition to create a sustainable and fully connected campus for the future, which we must thank our experienced project partners, such as CPW, in supporting us with.

“The building has innovative technology and solutions built into its fabric. And we hope it will spark greater collaboration between different teams just by nature of being in the same building - that’s quite often where the best ideas happen.”

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