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Creative university challenge

The new structure is designed to complement the adjacent listed building

A key part of Glyndwr University’s development programme, a new highly sustainable and environmentally friendly creative industries building is under construction. NSC reports from North Wales.

FACT FILE: Glyndwr University Creative Industries Building, Wrexham
Main client: Glyndwr University
Architect: Lawray Architects
Main contractor: ISG
Structural engineer: Atkins
Steelwork contractor: EvadX
Steel tonnage:65t
Work is underway on a new £2.4M facility at Glyndwr University in Wrexham which will be used to train the future workforce for the creative industries in north east Wales. The project will bring together the different disciplines associated with the sector, such as art and design, computing, theatre and performance and the humanities, all housed in a state-of-the-art sustainable steel-framed building.

The two-storey sector of the building will accommodate classrooms

The shape of the structure dictated the use of steel

Computer generated image of the completed Creative Industries Building

The roof has three separate pitches

The new Creative Industries Building will also contain television and radio production suites, furthering the success of the University’s community radio station.

Sustainability (see box story) and the local environment have played key roles in the design and construction of the building. Andy Clarke, Senior Technologist for Lawray Architects, explains that the adjacent University building’s clock tower is listed and the building has been designed to compliment and not distract or overshadow the older structure.

“The building relates to the existing structure, but also does not detract from the views towards the clock tower. We have been careful to ensure that the existing building retains its prominence. However the new Creative Industries Building completes the end of the site, and provides a focus to this frontage.”

The structure has a large curved elevation to fit the site, while its sloping sedum roof will mean the building is virtually hidden from the adjacent main road.

The direction of the roof’s slope also means that while viewing the University from the road ones eye is automatically drawn upwards along the slope towards the taller clock tower building.

Overall the structure approximately measures 43m x 40m and consists of a two storey sector along one elevation (facing the existing buildings) connected to the recording suite, with a large open plan area which is topped by the sloping green roof.

The layout has been developed to create a large social area where students and others in the industry can work and relax, bringing together ideas from various fields of study. Near this specialist area classrooms are located where these ideas can be developed.

“Steel was chosen because of the height and shape of the building,” adds Mr Clarke. “While a Kingspan cladding system was specified for the majority of the exterior for its thermal conductivity.”

Although the steel tonnage for the project is only 65t, the steel programme has required some thorough design and planning because of the structure’s irregular shape. The main part of the building’s roof slopes with the purlins, consequently the purlins are always rising along the length of the structure. The roof also has three pitches and the slope changes from four degrees, to nine degrees and then 11 degrees for the main roof area.

“The majority of the two-storey element is based around a 4m x 4m grid and this is where we started our steel erection,” explains Andrew Roberts, EvadX Project Designer. “The rest of the project is more bespoke, with a sloping roof and curved elevations which meant  steelwork was mostly small pieces of varying sizes.”

Adjoining the two-storey sector, the structure’s recording suite is a ‘box within a box’. The suite features a double height space and will be soundproofed from the remainder of the building.

A large high area was required for the recording suite’s equipment and to insulate it from the rest of the building and to prevent traffic noise penetrating the steelwork has packs to isolate it from the main frame.  A double skinned blockwork cladding and a concrete roof further insulates the suite.

Summing up, Mr Clarke says: “The new Creative Industries Building is a keynote development of the Plas Coch campus and of the University. It not only occupies an important site at the entrance to the University  but also to Wrexham. The project announces the town and the University are moving forward.”

Construction is scheduled for completion in December, with the facility opening in mid-2011.

Green building has abundant features

Environmentally friendly features incorporated into the new structure include air source heat pumps to provide the majority of space heating via low temperature under floor heating, a heat recovery VRV system for the areas that require cooling, a mini combined heat and power unit and an array of photovoltaic panels to generate electricity from the sun. The use of automated opening windows for natural ventilation will also combine with all of these technologies to provide a low carbon solution to the space heating, cooling and electrical requirements of the building.

Solar photovoltaics is a technology that is included within research programmes at the University. ISG has incorporated a bank of solar photovoltaics along the front south facing elevation, integrated within the building structure to act as a solar shading device. This enables the panels to be sited in the optimum location for solar collection and provides an additional function as a shading device. The panels would be rated at around 4kw peak power which would provide approx 3% of the building annual electrical requirement. The building also features a green sedum roof which helps to absorb CO2, rainwater, provides insulation and creates a habitat for wildlife.

It should be appreciated that as the heating demand for the building is reduced by passive measures such as high performance fabric and glazing elements, the electrical consumption becomes an increasingly higher factor in the carbon emissions calculation. To offset this, the design will incorporate maximum daylight where practical, utilise energy efficient lighting such as high frequency fluorescent lamps, LED fittings and lighting controls.

Construction techniques  and materials will allow the building thermal performance to be substantially better than the limiting values within Part L2 of the Building Regulations in order to achieve an economic solution to the energy strategy. The intention is to improve on these limiting values by at least 20%. The building has been designed to achieve a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating.

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