Using the sun to keep in the shade
The Park is currently home to 24 companies, attracted by its excellent facilities, which include laboratories and test and diagnostic equipment. Many of these companies work alongside Qinetiq, creating a military-focused, high-tech hub for the West Midlands. Current tenants include Goodrich Aerospace and Dytecna, responsible for the installation and design of communication systems in a range of military vehicles.
As a reflection of the park’s commitment to cutting-edge technology and to accommodate growing interest in its facilities, a groundbreaking sustainable energy building, Phase 3, was completed in June 2007. Supported by funding from Advantage West Midlands, the Regional Development Agency, and the European Regional Development Fund, Phase 3 is a benchmark for low carbon development in the West Midlands. It won the 2007 Excellence in Property Design Award, including contribution to environmental sustainability and innovation in design, from the UK Science Park Association.
The building, with 2,000m2 of floor space consisting of offices, laboratories and a bistro, incorporates a plethora of innovative, sustainable technologies. Designed by Rubicon Design architects and built by Leadbitter Construction, the working environment is cool in the summer and warm in winter, and has extremely low carbon emissions.
The building has a heating and cooling system based on ground source heat pump technology, which eliminates the need for a boiler and greatly reduces the overall carbon impact. To transport air through the building, hollow core concrete slabs are used instead of traditional steel ducts. The slabs work as heat exchangers between the supply air and the rooms, using the thermal storage capacity of the building’s structural mass to regulate internal temperatures. The floor/ceiling slabs convey fresh air into the building and serve as an energy store, in addition to being part of the structure.
Externally, the building’s envelope has a homogenous skin, sealed and insulated with an aluminium rain screen façade. An array of exterior sun louvres are mounted as brise soleil, shading the south elevation during the heat of the day, while allowing full outward views.
In addition to the brise soleil, Colt International designed and installed a sun-tracking louvre system adjacent to the bistro. This creates both visual impact and an energy efficient way to provide solar shading, harnessing the power of the sun to keep the building cool, without the need for electro-mechanical controls.
Six enormous vertical fins, each measuring 2.5m wide x 10.5m high, rotate slowly through the day to track the movement of the sun. Each blade consists of an upper section made of Shadotex louvre comprising Ferrari fabric, stretched over an aluminium support frame, which absorbs and repels up to 97% of the heat of the sun’s rays, thereby reducing cooling loads. The lower section is made of Shadometal perforated metal material.
Given their enormous size, the fins have been specifically designed to withstand high wind pressures and thermal expansion. Shadotex is perfect for this type of application as it is extremely lightweight, allowing large spans to be constructed without the need for additional supporting framework.
Each of these blades is controlled by Girasol, Colt’s revolutionary sun-tracking system. Named after the Italian word for sunflower, Girasol uses thermo-hydraulic drives to create a completely autonomous system that requires no electrical input to move the louvres. Two collector evaporator tubes, filled with a special CFC-free thermo-hydraulic fluid, are fixed to the top and bottom of a louvre blade. As the sun moves across the building, one tube heats up while the other cools down. The increase or decrease in temperature causes a difference in pressure and as the fluid expands or contracts the louvres rotate accordingly.
These drives move slowly and noiselessly to set the louvres in motion. Each louvred section, together with its thermo-hydraulic drive, forms an independent system integrated in the façade. Stored diffusion settings cause the louvres to open completely when the sky is overcast or when the respective façade is not exposed to the sun.
At Malvern, fabric and metal were chosen as the louvre materials; however, Girasol is a versatile system with the potential for use with a wide range of different louvre types. At the SBL offices in Linz, Austria, Colt Girasol powers glass louvres fitted with photovoltaic cells. The PV cells covered an area of some 250m2, producing 15,900kWh annually, amounting to more than 40% of the electrical power required for the building.
Phase 3 at MHSP provides an excellent example of what can be achieved by employing innovative design and cutting-edge technology. In addition to its environmentally sound credentials, the building’s design has proven to be a large factor in its commercial success. According to Malvern Hills Science Park Director Nigel Shaw: “Interest in this development has always been linked to its green credentials.” Many of the new phase’s offices were leased long before construction was complete.
For environmentally conscious organisations it is becoming more important to choose a location that reflects a commitment to reducing carbon emissions thus strengthening the case for building designers to mirror the approach adopted at MHSP.