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The building responds to the fragility of its location, the flood plain of the River Lee. It is made up of robust parts which anchor themselves to this specific place, while more fragile elements of timber and glass 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 is used - solid parts open to allow the building to breath while transparent parts let light in.
The Environmental Research Unit is a bespoke building bringing together different faculties of research in UCC. The building has a 65 m long rectangular frame running east to west and producing clear north and south facing elevations. Laboratories are located on the north side of the building and offices are on the south with vertical circulation, service cores and kitchenettes located in-between. The building employs no mechanical ventilation or air conditioning systems: Instead the building’s fabric, structural and façade, has 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 operates without a boiler - It is designed for minimal impact on the environment and the floor slabs have embedded pipework for cooling in the summer months and heating in the winter, using groundwater at constant temperature of 15 degrees Celsius. This water is further heated in winter using solar cells on the roof combined with a heat recovery system from the laboratory equipment so there is no need for a boiler. The building is fully naturally ventilated through it’s alignment to the prevailing wind and the fabric of the building has embodied sensor technology to provide research data on the building’s performance.
It is fitting that the building itself is an environmental experiment and contributes knowledge to the Cork commitment to a ‘Sustainable City’. The ‘Green Building’ experiment involves use of cutting-edge sensor and IT technology to continuously monitor the building performance and to help the inhabitants of the building to make decisions that minimise energy consumption.
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