Blog: SECBE Awards 2021 finalist - HVAC Refurbishment at WMC Camden

31 May 2021

sponsored by Willmott Dixon

HVAC Refurbishment at WMC Camden (submitted by Brinson Staniland Partnership)

Sustainability SECBE Award 2021 finalist

This project for the Working Men’s College in Camden is a light retrofit of a Grade II listed building, focusing on improving indoor environmental quality. 

Originally designed by W.D.Caroe in 1904, the building is the first purpose-built adult education college in Europe and is an important part of the college’s identity and ethos. Changes over the last 100 years, particularly in the 1960s, to the building and its context have led to the ingress of polluted outside air, traffic noise and severe over-heating in south-facing teaching spaces and admin rooms. 

Teaching and examination practices at WMC had been severely challenged by these internal temperature issues and related ingress of pollution, leading to complaints by staff and students who were struggling to work effectively during warmer months with windows open.

The client appointed Brinson Staniland Partnership (BSP) as M&E Engineers and design lead, along with Atomik Architecture, Perega structural engineers and Fusion Project Management, to provide low carbon solutions for addressing the overheating with minimal impact on the Grade II listing. 

In addition to dealing with the overheating, proposals were put together for renewing the antiquated heating system with a new system that responds to occupant needs, integrates well with the building’s ambience, and consumes significantly lower energy than the existing system.

The design team re-evaluated the heating and ventilation strategy by harnessing the potential of the existing building fabric and utilising low-carbon M&E systems technologies to solve the problems of overheating and poor air quality. A low carbon semi-passive design was provided incorporating attenuated mixed mode ventilation, night cooling and a visually sensitive means of solar reduction, to cool south-facing overheating rooms. New interventions were carefully introduced within the existing Edwardian building without resorting to refrigeration-based comfort cooling, and enabling future phases of conservation and improvements to be introduced.   

Whilst seemingly a prosaic brief this offered a very special opportunity. The new mixed-mode ventilation system reads as a visible intervention against the ornate finishes of the building, executed with deliberateness and repetition. Outside air is provided, and naturally cooled, through the staircases commencing at roof level and drawn through the corridors, where it feeds into each classroom.

The air is then exhausted through the façade in attenuated exhaust units located in the old coal fire ventilation grilles. New secondary glazing creates a thermal buffer, sandwiched with a powerful reflective metallised roller blind to minimise the effects of solar gain whilst maintaining a view.

Key facts:

  • The provision of summer cooling through passive means “in keeping” with the existing building avoiding the need to include refrigeration machines in the design. This technology is transferrable to so many old buildings.
  • The saving of 7.4 tonnes of CO2 per annum by avoidance of comfort cooling.
  • The application of these passive methods in a Grade II listed building by means minimising the impact on facades paving the way to acceptance by Camden planners and Historic England.

  • Client: WMC Camden
  • Project partners: Brinson Staniland Partnership – M&E Engineers, Atomik Architecture, Perega Structural Engineers and Fusion PM

About the Sustainability Award: 

High environmental and climate performance in construction aims to meet present day needs for housing, working environments and infrastructure without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs in times to come. It seeks to limit impact on the natural environment and demonstrate whole life sustainability. It is most effective when organisational culture, high design quality, technical innovation and transferability are abundant. More info.

Find out who wins at the Constructing Excellence SECBE Awards 2021 Summit & Awards Ceremony on Thurs 1st July 2021. Free attendance.

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