SMARTPLY builds a sustainable case at UK’s greenest commercial building

More than 11,000m2 of SMARTPLY OSB3 has been used in the construction of the structural timber frame at the University of East Anglia’s (UEA) landmark new development The Enterprise Centre – the UK’s first commercial building designed to achieve both Passivhaus and BREEAM Outstanding certification.

Delivered by main contractor Morgan Sindall alongside UEA’s Adapt Group, architects Architype, BDP Engineers and Churchman Landscape Architects, The Enterprise Centre sets the standard for sustainable developments with its innovative use of natural materials. Utilising the most advanced approaches to low carbon design and construction, the specification of SMARTPLY OSB3 helped the project to successfully achieve Passivhaus standards with an annual primary energy demand of <120kWh/m2.a.

Widely regarded as the world's most renewable building material, timber has been integral to the building’s design with Corsican Pine from nearby Thetford Forest used in the frame and 9,400m2 of SMARTPLY OSB3 used in the floor and roof sheeting. To keep thermal bridging to a minimum and to achieve a U-Value of 0.11 W/m2k, the timber frame’s external walls have been carefully designed by timber frame specialist Cygnum to include a twin frame system with an uninterrupted duvet layer. 

The build-up of the wall panels features 18mm taped SMARTPLY OSB3 on the inside for racking and airtightness, followed by a 140mm cellulose insulated structural stud, a thermal break cavity filled with cellulose insulation and a second 63mm insulated stud. Prior to installation, an external breathable wood fibre board was then added to allow moisture to leave the panel, whilst protecting against condensation and ensuring the thermal insulation of the timber.

“SMARTPLY OSB3 provided the ideal solution in the creation of our ultra-low carbon timber frame,” said John Desmond, Managing Director at Cygnum Timber Frame. “Utilised in the floors, roofs and internal face of the external walls, it helped us to achieve a very consistent and excellent result for thermal performance with all detailing, jointing and edging completed to the highest standard on site.”

Manufactured using zero added formaldehyde, SMARTPLY OSB3 met the client and contractor’s strict requirements for proven performance and extremely low environmental impact. In addition, the system offers a fully certified alternative to softwood plywood and boasts FSC Chain of Custody certification – a key requirement for this exemplar of low carbon construction.

“SMARTPLY is a material that we are very happy to use for sustainable sites such as this one,” added John Desmond. “The SMARTPLY factory is also based in Waterford, less than 100 miles from our own manufacturing plant in Macroom, so this helped us to achieve further savings on our carbon footprint.”

The Enterprise Centre is the latest in the list of UEA environmental trailblazers, such as the Elizabeth Fry Building, the Zuckerman Institute and the Julian Study Centre. Utilising the strength, versatility and durability of SMARTPLY OSB3, the scheme perfectly demonstrates the system’s ability to provide architects, specifiers and contractors with a structural panel that is suitable for the most energy efficient developments.