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Prize winner puts natural ventilation first

RIBA Stirling Prize Logo

The RIBA Stirling Prize is often accused of putting flashy design ahead of practicality and sustainability when it choosing its winners – however this year it has dramatically changed tack.The 2014 winner of this most prestigious prize for buildings – Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre – places sustainability right at the heart of its design and operation. It is expected to receive a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating because its designers have put long-term performance first and, rather t han adding carbon saving technologies as a ‘statement’, they have come up with a more understated approach focused on occupant comfort and low running costs.
While most people will quickly notice the metallic panels that adorn the building’s façade depicting images of local people, they will equally be struck by the four impressive chimneys that comprise the theatre’s main architectural feature. However, these are not there simply for effect – they are the heart of a natural ventilation strategy that dramatically lowers the building’s carbon footprint while ensuring the inner core the building is ideally suited for theatre goers and staff. Heat recovery has been built into the extract ventilation and, along with air source heat pumps to heat the main theatre space and combined heat and power producing low carbon electricity, hot water and additional space heating, has cut the revamped theatre’s heating bill by 6% and lowering its carbon emissions by 15%.
The approach to building services in this iconic building mark an exciting step forward for how ventilation engineers and architects collaborate. Natural ventilation has long been favoured by architects because it can be far more discreet than mechanical equivalents, however many early attempts proved less than successful and deeply uncomfortable for the building’s occupants. By involving the ventilation specialists at an early stage in the design, clients and architects are starting to have more success with this approach. Early collaboration and mutual respect allows passive techniques to be part of the concept design so they play an integral part of how the building works – not just how it looks. The same is starting to apply to smoke ventilation. It is a safety requirement for many buildings, but if considered from an early stage, in both new build and refurbishment projects, can also play a wider and more valuable long-term role in the management of temperatures and indoor air quality.
Good quality smoke ventilation products, such as our Certilam Natural Smoke and Heat Exhaust Ventilator (NSHEV), can be adapted to respond to given climatic conditions including temperature, light levels, wind, rain, and concentrations of CO2 with a relatively straightforward adjustment to the controls. The equipment should be tested and CE certified to EN12101-2 for smoke ventilation and for its secondary purpose as a natural ventilation system where it can be used to purge the occupied areas of warm stale air under certain conditions. One major benefit of this approach is that the end user gains natural ventilation at no additional energy penalty and only a small extra capital cost. It won’t necessarily win any big prestigious awards, but will definitely cut running costs and provide a discreet improvement to the comfort conditions for occupants.