Collaborative learing centre achieves its environmental credentials with a Monodraught natural ventilation strategy

A £3.5million Collaborative Learning Centre (CLC), funded by Essex County Council, will help to transform education facilities in Wickford, Essex when it is fully operational in September 2010. Built on the site of The Bromfords School site, accommodation includes a large hall, entrance area, large hall, small hall, theme room, video recording studio, external spaces and classrooms for workshops. The Centre is a collaborative project created to provide an invaluable resource filled with technology that children would not normally have at school. It boasts hi-tech music, art and IT facilities for use by Wickford’s eleven primary schools, one special school and the local community. It is expected that up to 120 primary school children and their teachers will use the facility every day.

Commenting on the project, Kevin Harrison of Colchester-based architects Stanley Bragg Architects says: “From the start, an important part of the brief for the CLC was that it should be as sustainable a building as possible and, working in conjunction with M & E consultants Peter Sharp Associates, many of the original aspirations of the building and its environment were met. A Monodraught natural ventilation strategy was therefore a natural choice in place of traditional opening windows, where noise from outside the building could be a distraction in spaces dedicated to learning, and similarly, noise from activities within the building – such as live shows, concerts, etc. – could be a nuisance to local residents.“

The Monodraught system also enabled the Centre to comply with a number of noise restrictions that were placed on the building, especially in specialist spaces where large groups of people rehearse and develop plays and musical events. In addition, the original plans to use solar power were changed, so the Monodraught Sola-boost units provided an opportunity to include solar power into the building specification by a different route. The Sola-boost units have been especially beneficial during the extended spell of hot weather recently experienced (June/July 2010) as the long hours of sunshine meant that the Sola-boosts’ solar powered fans have increased the throughput of air at just the right time.

Monodraught  also provided figures on air changes per hour and other data for the specification, which meant that money was saved because the architects didn’t need to include trickle ventilation and were able to optimise the number of openable windows.

The building also features highly sustainable ground-source heat pumps as its main temperature control system and particular attention has been paid to air tightness, both of which complement the Windcatcher Sola-boost natural ventilation strategy, which allows the building to breathe, but can also be fully controlled using its motorised louvre system. The Sola-boost systems also allow fresh air into the building during autumn and winter when opening windows would not be acceptable to the students, teachers and members of the public using the Centre day and night.

As the ground-source heat pumps provide both heating and cooling, they are used to introduce some ‘comfort cooling’ if required, during larger events where 300 or more people are in one of the spaces.

Echoing Kevin Harrison’s comments, Centre manager Rachel Voller says: “The natural ventilation system creates a really nice environment throughout the building and, combined with cooling air provided by the ground-source heat pumps, the spaces never feel ‘clammy’. It is a nice climate for everyone to work in.

Monodraught installed a total of eight Windcatcher Sola-boost natural ventilation systems and supplied its own iNVent natural ventilation controller to monitor temperature and CO2 levels in the seven zones within the Centre.

Summing up, Rachel Voller says; “The Monodraught natural ventilation system has already proved its effectiveness when the Centre has been used as a conference venue for up to 50 delegates; and hosted a performance of Shakespeare by a local secondary school, which attracted a large audience. We haven’t had any operational problems at all and we are very pleased with it.”

Commenting for Monodraught, managing director Tony Cull says creating a comfortable learning environment is vital for students and teachers alike, and with eleven schools, one special school and the local community using the Centre, the addition of our solar powered natural ventilation systems has proved to be an inspired choice for the very hot summer of 2010.
Windcatcher and Sola-boost are registered trademarks owned by Monodraught Limited.

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