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NI college building harnesses leading-edge air tightness technology

NI college building harnesses leading-edge air tightness technology

A new low-energy education building for Northern Ireland’s South West College is approaching completion. It’s the first structure in the UK to meet both Passivhaus Premium and BREEAM Outstanding criteria, and in terms of sustainability will rank alongside Apple Campus 2 when finished.

The new building will form part of the college’s new 8,200m2 Erne Campus, which will replace buildings in Enniskillen, built in the 1960s and achieving a rather sub-par “D” energy rating.

And, as with all low-energy structures, alongside a raft of other energy-saving measures, air tightness has played an integral role in the delivery of this benchmark building.

The walls are expected to achieve a low U-value of 0.15W/m2K, with Protect BarriAir used on the construction’s warm side. The building also meets and exceeds the tough Passivhaus limit, with an n50 value of 0.3 ACH @ 50Pascals – easily within the Passivhaus target of 0.6 ACH @ 50Pascals.

Project Design Architect, Peter Carr, Hamilton Architects Associate, said, “Being the first combined Passivhaus Premium and BREEAM Outstanding education facility in the UK, it was a prerequisite that the specified materials for each building element met the design strategy and contributed to the overall energy efficiency of the structure.

“Protect BarriAir fitted the bill as the chosen airtightness system and helped us to fall well within the Passivhaus limits for testing.”

These membranes were used in walls, ceilings, floors and roofing, in order to pass stringent air tightness tests. Class-leading systems like this provide a high degree of control in terms of moisture and condensation management, and thermal resistance – all critical for keeping heat loss – and energy bills – low.

The knock-on benefit to the environment is also of paramount importance.

In the same class as Apple Campus 2

In energy efficiency terms, the project has been compared to the Apple Campus 2 in California, although for most of the year the tech giant’s building effectively eliminates the need for air-conditioning, rather than, in the case of Erne, the need for heating systems.

When the Erne project was first launched, Michael McAlister, Chief Executive, South West College, said, “The Erne Campus at SWC will be a flagship for sustainable construction across these islands and beyond,” underlining what a milestone the new building represents.

South West College is no stranger to ground-breaking low-energy buildings. In 2015 it built the CREST Pavilion in Enniskillen.

The new campus will have capacity for 800 students and 120 staff when it opens later this year.

Industry-leading air tightness testing services

Air Tightness Testing Ltd. provides industry-recognised air tightness testing services for new-builds and renovation projects. We help ensure developers meet all relevant building regulations as regards air tightness. We offer a fast, professional, friendly service to developers across England.

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