The building is University College Cork’s (UCC) inter-disciplinary Environment Research Institute (ERI) whose focus is on translation of fundamental knowledge in Environment, Engineering and Management into practical solutions for the protection and sustainability of natural resources.
The building embodies the fragility of its location, the flood plain of the River Lee. It is composed of robust parts which anchor themselves to this specific place, absorbing the flood waters within the concrete structure, and fragile elements of timber and glass that respond to the human occupation of the building, breathing in rhythm with the external environment, and the changing laboratory experiments which are conducted within it. A concrete frame with timber infill; solid parts are openings allowing the building to breath, transparent parts let light in. The concrete frame is conceived of as a large radiator, incorporating pipes into which warm or cool water circulates to heat or cool the building. This water is heated or cooled using a heat-pump connected to a permanent underground water source. All energy for heating and cooling the building comes from the heat-pump, and there is no need for a boiler. Photovoltaic and solar collector cells on the roof generate energy for computers, artificial lighting and small power requirements.
The building is composed as a 65 m long rectangular frame, oriented along the East-West axis, producing a clear North facing elevation, and a clear South facing elevation. Laboratories are therefore located on the north side of the building, and offices are located on the south side of the building. Vertical circulation, service cores and kitchenettes are located in-between. The building employs no mechanical ventilation or air conditioning systems. The building’s fabric, structural and façade, have been integrated into the environmental approach, the vertical circulation forms ventilation chimneys at the ends of the building and the middle of the building. The façade openings and apertures have been carefully designed in balance with the microclimate, producing an extremely low energy sustainable design. The building is an experimental low energy environment incorporating high densities of sensors and technology to monitor the building performance on a continuous basis, and to inform the inhabitants of the building so that they can make decisions that minimise energy consumption.
Photography : Michael Moran
west facade south facade corner