One year after it officially opened in Galway, Ireland, we return to the Biosciences Research Building (BRB) and assess is overall energy efficiency.
The BRB was designed and constructed during the depths of the Irish economic collapse when austerity measures were in place and therefore, it had to be designed and built as inexpensively as possible and, more importantly, it had to look like nothing was excessive and nothing was wasted. This ethic also permeated the clients’ mindset related to energy efficiency, so the design team was extremely frugal with its approach to energy and its relationship to the architecture. This challenge gave our design team great focus and as a result, the BRB is one of the most energy efficient research laboratories in the world of its type. For example, upon completion and after monitoring energy usage for over a year, we discovered that 50% of the building did not have to be mechanically heated or cooled for over 50% of the year. The building is also efficient in its simplicity, where every element has its precise purpose and economy; beautiful. The building was designed to the BREEAM standard of “Very Good,” which is equivalent to a LEED Platinum rating. Furthermore, the building meets the AIA energy target in line with the 2030 Commitment. We reported on the energy metrics available when the building first opened and today we’re sharing more details now that the building has been occupied for one year.
reduction in carbon emission from Energy Model Baseline
reduction in lighting power density from ASHRAE 90.1-2007
The building employs a high / low energy sustainability strategy, which places the most mechanically intensive spaces, such as tissue culture and imaging suites, into a zone adjacent to the traditional open lab space. As a result, high energy use spaces that are densely occupied can have direct access to the natural light at the building perimeter along the thermal corridor. Low energy use spaces, such as writing carrels, offices and interaction spaces, are also grouped along the perimeter to optimize natural ventilation and daylighting strategies.
The most utility-intense (especially from an HVAC perspective) spaces are located on the top floor. This eliminates “pass-through” shafts for utility-intense spaces and maximizes floor plate efficiency. So, in addition to the high / low energy strategy being employed in a floor-by-floor basis; it was also applied to the program spaces / arrangement vertically in the building, serving as one of the most important organizational drivers for the project.
LOW ENERGY ZONE METRICS (45% OF THE BUILDING)
of the year low energy zones are naturally ventilated
of the year low energy zones are heated with internal loads
of the year low energy zones are heated with radiant heating
WATER RECLAMATION STRATEGIES
Water reclamation strategies: cross-section through lab block
reduction in potable water for fixtures and fittings from LEED baseline
In order to stimulate the economy in Ireland as quickly as possible, the project was also designed and constructed utilizing a fast-track design-build process to get the project up and running as quickly as possible. By supplementing with a radiant heating system, 45% of the building is able to function without mechanical ventilation. Passive strategies such as water reclamation, harnessing the building’s internal loads for heating, natural ventilation for cooling, daylighting and the zoning of program elements according to mechanical intensity, cumulatively worked to simplify the design, achieving a superior level of performance and driving down the cost.