Monodraught Helps New Prospects College Achieve Its Educational Aspirations and a BREEAM ‘Very Good’ Rating
Prospects College is a vocational skills training provider based in the south east of England with sites in Southend, Brentwood and Basildon, providing courses for students aged from 14 years upwards. Prospects colleges also provide bespoke training specific to employers’ requirements and for companies wanting to re-train staff. The company’s recent appointment as a Group Training Association was announced at the opening of the latest college in Basildon, Essex.
Architects Ayshford Sansome have been working with Prospects since 2006 and the latest project is the sixth training facility the practice has worked on for the college. The schemes have been predominantly refurbishment projects on brownfield sites and the latest was completed inBasildonon the former site of a derelict food processing factory which, when cleared, was used to construct a brand new building. Sited alongside two previous refurbishment projects handled by Ayshford Sansome, the buildings have, in effect, created aBasildoncollege campus consisting of an Engineering Centre, a Construction Centre and the new facility, which is a Centre of Excellence for Building Services.
Commenting for Ayshford Sansome, Associate Rob Westbrook says the building was originally intended as a construction centre but was reassigned as a building services centre to meet a change in the demand for skills. This meant significant changes to the design of the building in order to re-focus spaces to provide facilities for building services disciplines such as electrical, plumbing, air conditioning, H&V, etc., rather than previously planned construction skills such as bricklaying and plastering.
However, shortly after work started on the new college, changes to the way the funding was provided meant a reduction of one third in the budget for the building and a delay of one year in the start date.
Explaining the impact this had on the project, Rob Westbrook says the original aspiration for the Centre was to create a sustainable building featuring sustainable technologies, both in its construction and its detailing. Prospects also intended to use the building itself and its various services as a practical education resource within which building services students could actively hone their construction skills.
To this end it was envisaged that many of the buildings’ services would be exposed; and the data provided by monitoring their performance and energy consumption would be displayed within the building and become an integral part of the education process.
However, with a third of the budget gone it seemed that many of the original aspirations would be lost, even though Prospects and Ayshford Sansome were keen to retain as much as possible for the sake of the students.
In the end, and thanks in part to natural ventilation specialist Monodraught, the result is still a very sustainable Centre despite losing some of the technologies originally intended for it.
Says Rob Westbrook: “Obviously, with a significantly reduced budget, we had to look again at everything that was planned for the Centre. Natural ventilation was a key consideration for the sustainability of the building and when the original specification was reviewed and Monodraught emerged as the preferred candidate, meeting our brief in terms of cost, sustainability and as a potential educational resource.”
He adds that importantly, the choice also ensured that the building would retain several of the client’s and Ayshford Sansome’s original aspirations for natural ventilation, even though the design of the building meant certain areas couldn’t benefit from it.
Where natural ventilation was the natural choice the architects were able to specify three different Monodraught technologies – the Windcatcher and Windcatcher Sola-Boost systems, which are proven top-down natural ventilation systems and the latest Cool-Phase low-energy cooling and ventilation system. This innovative technology reduces energy consumption in buildings by up to 90% compared to conventional cooling systems whilst creating a fresh and healthy indoor environment, without compressors or hazardous coolants.
The top floor contains a large, open-plan learning resource centre and flexible study space under a curved roof with three of Monodraught’s Classic Windcatchers in each of its spaces. In addition, the top floor accommodates two ICT computer suites, an admin office and a boardroom/meeting room. Each of these latter spaces is cooled with its own Cool-Phase system.
The middle floor has traditional classrooms and some office space.
One of the ambitions for the original scheme was the provision of a student facility on the site. This was originally conceived for the top floor of the building under a glass atrium. However, the atrium proved too costly, was removed from the scheme and in the revised plan a student restaurant for 150 covers was included on the ground floor. The remainder of the ground floor leads through to a skills training area that is, in effect, a large open-plan ‘factory floor’ divided into a number of different training sections where students work within timber ‘pods’.
Due to the higher occupancy on the ground floor and the proximity of the restaurant’s kitchen, Monodraught advised installing four Windcatcher Sola-Boost natural ventilation systems, which feature solar-powered fan assistance to provide an energy-free boost in warm weather.
Obviously the use of three different Monodraught systems was ideal because the combination of technologies went a long way to meeting the building’s original brief: firstly by demonstrating three building services to the students using the training facilities; secondly by providing a mix of services in different areas; and thirdly by showing that sustainable objectives can be achieved in different ways in different environments and at different temperatures experienced throughout the year.
All of these features were proposed during discussions with Monodraught. In particular, the Cool-Phase specifications were proposed for the ICT suites because students sit online exams in these areas and Prospects was especially keen to create the best possible environment in spaces where air conditioning had been considered. It was also decided to include Cool-Phase systems in the admin office and a boardroom/meeting room; and in fact, air conditioning is only used in areas where it was not possible to use natural ventilation, such as the middle floor.
Says Rob: “Cool-Phase was a very new and innovative system when we first specified it, so it also reinforced our ambitions for the building and the centre’s own environmental credentials.”
Whilst Cool-Phase doesn’t provide mechanically chilled air it is a low-energy cooling system rather than a natural ventilation system so Prospects and Ayshford Sansome were very happy with the specification. It met the Building Regulations as far as ventilation was concerned and met the client’s aspirations to have a cooled environment in the more heavily populated areas such as the two ICT suites, each of which is equipped with 24 work stations for teaching and students sitting online exams.
Commenting on the Cool-Phase specification Rob says there was a certain amount of scepticism from the project’s mechanical engineers, but Ayshford Sansome pointed out that the system was exactly what the sustainability brief called for.
“During this discussion period Monodraught provided a great deal of data demonstrating the performance in different environments and at different temperatures throughout the year; and in the end the Prospects management were so convinced they made the decision themselves to install Cool-Phase,” says Rob. Adding that the ICT suites are the largest rooms on the site, use the most energy and have the highest heat output, so this is where the Monodraught systems have their greatest challenge.
The Cool-Phase installation was also a challenge because the system is designed to bring in fresh air through a perimeter wall but an existing structure blocked access. However, the roof had initially been prepared for a natural ventilation system so Monodraught redesigned the ductwork to bring fresh air in through existing openings in the roof. They are also suspended above a concrete ceiling and, rather that concealing them within a suspended ceiling, are left exposed so teachers and students can examine every aspect of the installation including ducting, fixings, controls, etc. So once installed, the Cool-Phase units themselves have become an educational feature.
Each of the three Cool-Phase systems is also linked to its own Monodraught iNVent controller, which monitors temperature and CO2 levels and adjusts incoming air. The Windcatcher and Windcatcher Sola-Boost top-down natural ventilation systems are also monitored and controlled using iNVent.
Data from all the Monodraught systems are recorded every half-hour and can be downloaded to enable the latest energy use figures to be used within teaching sessions. This approach is helping to achieve another Prospects ambition: to provide students with practical on-going educational information.
Rob admits that having to redesign the ductwork to mount the Cool-Phase system in the roof did raise a few issues, but says Monodraught responded positively and quickly to his and the client’s concerns to the point where input from both parties resulted in changes to ducting and fixings that have now been permanently incorporated into future Cool-Phase systems.
And a final note: now opened and occupied for six months, the new Basildon college building has recently achieved a BREEAM ‘Very Good’ rating.
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