Agency practises what it preaches

The Environment Agency its showing a good example in promoting the benefits of environmentally sustainable construction in the shape of a new building which it will occupy at Howbery Park, Wallingford in Oxfordshire. The new office is designed to be "one of the most environmentally-friendly offices in the UK, says the Agency, showcasing best practice and helping to pave the way in "green" building design.

Work started in March on the new office will boast numerous environmental and energy saving features which will significantly reduce greenhouse emissions while limiting the impact on the local environment.

It has been commissioned by HR Wallingford Ltd, owner of Howbery Park from architect and master planner Scott Brownrigg, and the Environment Agency will lease it once completed.

The Agency has worked closely with HR Wallingford Ltd to influence the design of the building to incorporate best practice in “green” building, and many energy-saving features are being built into the development.

These include electricity producing photo-voltaic cells, which convert light into energy, as well as rainwater harvesting and a natural ventilation system. It is estimated that the building’s carbon emissions will be 26% below that defined by the DEFRA’s Energy Efficiency in Offices guidance figures. The new office building is predicted to achieve an “excellent” rating under the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) for Offices 2003, produced by the Building Research Establishment. BREEAM assesses the environmental performance of buildings in a range of categories: management, energy use, health and wellbeing, pollution, transport, land use, ecology, materials and water.

Environmental features

The full environmental enhancements will be:

  • Photo-voltaic cells to generate electrical power. These will clad the south-facing “brise-soleil” – a canopy which projects about three metres from the roof over the front of the building and provides shade to the interior. They will generate approx 20% of the estimated demand of the building for electrical power.
    The Agency has been awarded a grant from the DTI towards the cost of installation of these cells. The cells will reduce the amount of carbon dioxide being discharged to the atmosphere by about 12 tonnes per annum.
  • Solar panels to provide hot water. These will be installed on the roof and will satisfy about 40% of the demand for hot water. The Agency has also secured a grant from the DTI towards the cost of installing these panels.
  • Rainwater harvesting system to collect and re-use rainwater. This system will collect rainwater from the roof for re-use within the building for toilet flushing. It will satisfy about 40% of the total demand for water.
  • Ventilation turbines to support the natural ventilation. The building will not be air-conditioned.
  • Roof-mounted, wind-powered turbines will be installed on the roof to help draw air through the windows and the upper floor of the building. Motorised clerestory windows to allow an inflow of cool air at night. The building has been designed so that the solid ceiling beams act as a heat sink during the day and need to be cooled at night. One hundred clerestory windows on each floor will be opened via a motorised system to facilitate this.
  • Sustainable drainage from the car park. The Agency is actively promoting more sustainable forms of drainage from all developments in order to reduce the impact of run-off on river systems. The car park serving the office will allow rainwater to soak through into the ground, whilst other non-permeable areas will drain to a reed bed.

Showcase design

Innes Jones, West Area Manager for the Environment Agency, said: “We are delighted that work has now started on our new office and that the developer, HR Wallingford Ltd, has allowed us to influence the design and create such an innovative and environmentally friendly building.

“We feel that this is an unmissable opportunity for the Environment Agency to practise what it preaches, showcasing the possibilities of sustainable development with a building that incorporates many environmental features in one design. We are also adopting the latest thinking in office design for the internal layout and seeking to provide an efficient and cost-effective working environment for all our staff.”

John Ormston, a Director of HR Wallingford Ltd, said: “It was always our intention to construct new buildings on our Howbery Park site which are environmentally friendly and working with the Environment Agency has strengthened our resolve to do that. We have planning consent for further office development to create a science/business park and the Environment Agency has opened our eyes as a developer to the range of features that can be incorporated in the planned buildings.”

Architect Scott Brownrigg worked with engineer Hoare Lea and the Waterman Partnership on the design of the building, which is being constructed by Moss Construction. Once completed, the building will allow the Environment Agency to move all area staff into one building. Currently staff is accommodated in different offices across the Howbery Park site at Wallingford.

It is planned that construction will be completed by the end of this year, and the building will be in full use by the Agency in spring 2005.

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