A new city centre campus
The CIBSE Journal)
A new city centre campus for the University of Wales Newport will be
a key element in the regeneration of Newport. Innovative services design
has achieved a 14.5% improvement on Part L and BREEAM Excellent without
heavy investment in low or zero carbon technologies.
The new £35m Newport City Centre Campus project, due to open in 2010, is
the first phase of an intended £50m two-phase development for the
University with partnership funding from Newport City Council and the
Welsh Assembly Government (WAG).
The first-phase campus project is a collaboration between the
University, Newport City Council and Newport Unlimited, the urban
regeneration company for the city. It is situated on the west bank of
the River Usk between the new tree-lined Usk Way boulevard and the
existing riverside walk. Its northern end borders onto a new pedestrian
city square at the west bank end of the new £5m foot and cycle bridge
which dominates the city skyline standing 70m (229ft) high and spanning
145 metres (476 ft) across the River Usk.
As existing framework consultant to the University, Faber Maunsell |
AECOM had an early involvement in the project, advising on BREEAM and
sustainability issues. The company’s involvement with the new building
then ceased and an OJEU notice was issued. Following a rigorous tender
and assessment process, Faber Maunsell was selected from a shortlist of
five major consulting engineers to carry out the design of M&E services,
fire engineering, acoustics, ICT, advanced security and sustainability
consultancy. The company was also appointed as approved BREEAM
“Although we had a strong ongoing relationship with the University
stretching back over a number of years we knew we were likely to be up
against some tough competition. We were aware that there would be strong
interest in the project as it was widely recognised as a flagship for
kick-starting the cultural regeneration of the city centre. I believe
the simplicity and clarity of our approach, our experience of innovative
design solutions but above all our enthusiasm for the project convinced
the judging panel of our credentials for successfully delivering the
project,” commented Faber Maunsell | AECOM Project Director Chris Lynn.
Sustainability is a key consideration underpinning the whole design and
a condition of the funding from the WAG was that the campus building
should achieve a BREEAM Excellent rating.
“We took the BREEAM issue on board right from the start,” said Lynn. “On
some projects the BREEAM assessor can be rather passive with a tendency
not to get too involved in some of the key design decision making.
“We took a very different view and involved our in-house sustainability
consultants right from day one, who regularly provided input to the
design process. They were instrumental in influencing the conceptual
thinking of the design team and held workshops to communicate the key
elements for consideration. In this way sustainability was always a high
agenda item and integral to every design decision,” he added.
There was also an aspiration to exceed the requirements of the current
Building Regulations Part L by at least 10%. In the event, the design
has achieved a 14.5% improvement upon Part L through simplicity of
design, avoiding the need for renewable energy sources to meet the
Despite this fact, Faber Maunsell undertook a detailed feasibility study
into the possible use of renewables and numerous options were considered
for adding value to the development. For example, use of ground source
heat pumps was considered but there was a danger of causing damage to
existing underground ties running from the river’s retaining bank wall.
Similarly, solar thermal heating was not deemed appropriate due to the
high cost of integrating the units into the building fabric in order to
maintain the high quality chic designs of the roof and west elevation
façade of the building. Biomass fuel was also considered but discounted
due to concerns over the reliability of a local fuel supply.
“There are some projects where clients wish to include renewables as a
visual token gesture even though they may bring very little real
practical added value,” explained Chris Lynn. “In contrast, the
University took a very honest view and was adamant that renewables
should only be included if they offered real added value and benefits to
the project. The simplicity and effectiveness of the integrated design
solutions negated the need for renewables. However, the design does
include some provision for future retrofitting of renewables at a later
date, if required,” he added.
A further limitation was the wedge-shaped site for the campus, which
restricted the building orientation options. To address this issue Faber
Maunsell carried out many iterations of dynamic thermal analysis
modelling, using real weather data to model the temperature profiles of
all internal spaces. The company then worked closely with architects
Building Design Partnership (BDP) to arrive at a design that would
achieve the right balance of natural daylight and solar heat gains,
using a novel roof design combined with solar controlled glazing and
brise soleil. The integrated design approach of architect and engineers
was able to realise extensive glazing achieving the desirable effects of
solar gain from early morning sun whilst at the other end of the scale
selecting appropriate shading techniques for reducing solar overheating
during peak summertime conditions.
It was clear to the designers from the computer modelling that a simple
low energy ventilation system would be one of the key elements in
achieving the required energy performance, whilst helping to reduce
potential maintenance cost, this being a key consideration for the
University’s estates team. However, the proximity of a main road with
recorded noise levels of up to 80dBA obviated the use of natural
ventilation as sound levels in many teaching spaces were predicted to
reach around 50dBA during the day with open windows.
“Because of these influences we’ve opted for a displacement ventilation
system in teaching spaces using the floor space as a supply air plenum
and introducing the supply air through swirl diffusers at 19°C and low
velocity to avoid draughts. In lecture theatres the diffusers are
located under the seating,” explained Project Manager Kevin Searle. “Air
is extracted at high level and heat is recovered at the air handling
units using a number of energy-saving measures including, for example, a
“There will be some mechanical cooling in areas with high IT usage and
in the sound studios. Ceiling heights were kept to an optimum level for
cost reasons which prevented the use of chilled beams so, where
necessary, we will be cooling supply air from the air handling units
supplying these areas,” he continued.
To further optimise the performance of the ventilation system, any
spaces with variable occupancy will also be fitted with carbon dioxide
sensors to provide demand controlled ventilation. In addition, the
design team developed an understanding of the projected use of the
various spaces to achieve further fine tuning.
“We worked very closely with the University to understand the usage and
occupancy patterns of the various spaces and to set permissible peak
temperatures based on this information,” recalled mechanical engineer
Sarah Gealy. “This enabled us to raise set point temperatures in areas
where temperature wasn’t critical and in teaching spaces that will not
be in use during the summer months. In other areas, such as lecture
theatres, temperature was considered critical and strict limitations
were placed on peak temperatures,” she continued.
Heating will be provided by gas-fired condensing boilers serving a
combination of trench heating and low level radiators. Using flow and
return temperatures of 65°C and 45°C respectively, this will provide
good condensing and optimise the efficiency of the heating plant.
Thanks to BDP’s innovative design approach the internal spaces will
enjoy the benefits of high levels of natural daylight and the lighting
design takes full advantage of this. Lighting in teaching spaces uses
dimmable T5 linear fluorescent light sources, which are controlled in
relation to daylight levels and occupancy to minimise electricity
consumption. Where decorative lighting effects are required, light
emitting diodes (LEDs) have been used to provide accent lighting, again
with minimum energy consumption.
“Budgetary constraints meant that we had to give very careful thought to
the lighting system,” explained Kevin Searle. “Working with BDP we have
created layers of light using a minimum number of fittings, providing a
‘high class’ feeling at a relatively low cost – a happy compromise,” he
The Campus provides a focus for learning, creativity, innovation and
enterprise. The heart of the building’s design philosophy is providing
an environment which supports the creative process through research and
engagement with the community. The building will be a ‘hothouse’ of
creativity, incubating ideas and talent to support and establish
enterprises that can compete effectively in the global economy.
In order to achieve a synergy between creativity and enterprise the new
campus will be home to two schools – the digital media, film and design
elements of the Newport School of Art, Media and Design and the Newport
Business School. This will enable the creativity of the School of Art,
Media and Design to be fused with the Business School’s enterprise and
business expertise. The Business School also provides expertise in the
application of computer based technologies which underpin the design
process. The two schools have different cultures, and the design of the
building supports their integration, a particular feature of the
building being the ‘hothouse’ which will be a focal point for research.
The University is committed to providing an excellent student experience
and with its agenda for social change and inclusion has a diverse
student population. The building therefore needs to offer the
flexibility to meet the needs of all students and be physically
transparent and open to the city. This reflects the University’s ethos
of a community university with no barriers. The building will be open to
the public, has an exhibition and gallery space and space for visitors
to relax and enjoy the building.
The campus is a key part of the regeneration of the whole of Newport’s
city centre and developing cultural quarter bringing vibrancy to the
area - an effect which has already been seen in Cardiff. For this reason
and in the current economic conditions it was important that the project
Except for some initial enabling works the main works began onsite in
December 2008 and is set to deliver not just a new campus but an iconic
landmark for Newport by 2010. Throughout the design phase there has been
close collaboration between all team members, and with the client.
“A crucial element of this project so far, and moving forward, has been
the positive engagement of our engineers at every stage of the process
with project managers Mott MacDonald led by Mark Smith, the University’s
Estates team and in particular the end-users. We have been keen to
ensure that our ideas have been articulated to the University and others
in a way that everybody understands, thus providing the opportunity to
debate any key design issues constructively. Quality, cost and time is
always a balance on every project and in the city centre campus I
believe we have achieved an excellent balance and the campus will be a
development that the City of Newport can be proud of for many years to
come.” Chris Lynn concluded.
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