University of Leicester – Centre for Medicine

Over a kilometre of ‘earth tubes,’ offsite manufacture, and air tests using an aircraft engine were all required to make the UK’s largest Passivhaus building a reality.

Passivhaus is the fastest-growing energy performance standard in the world, but in the UK its use has been limited to domestic projects or smaller scale non-residential buildings.

That situation changed in December when the University of Leicester completed the £42m Centre for Medicine. With a gross internal floor area of just under 13,000 m2, it is the largest building designed to Passivhaus standard in Britain and around four times larger than the previous record holder, The Enterprise Centre at the University of East Anglia, which was opened in 2015.

The cutting edge facility, located on the main city centre campus, employs a ‘fabric first’ approach to construction, with high levels of insulation and low levels of air permeability and thermal bridging across the whole building envelope. That enables a major reduction in heating and cooling loads and should help the centre slash its annual energy bills by 80 per cent.

The stringent requirements of Passivhaus, including ultra low U-values for the building envelope and less than 15 kWh/m2 of energy for space heating, tested the design and construction team, many of whom were unfamiliar with the technologies and standards involved.

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