VolkerFitzpatrick completes UCL’s world-leading Control Active Ventilation Environment lab

VolkerFitzpatrick recently completed the construction of University College London’s (UCL) world-leading Control Active Ventilation Environment lab (CAVE) in Dagenham, designed to research climate and airborne hazards. Located at the LondonEast-UK Business and Technical Park, Dagenham, the new £6.9m state-of-the-art facility is the first facility of its kind in terms of its advanced capabilities to carry out research at full scale into air quality and ventilation challenges in buildings. It is designed to answer questions relating to indoor air in urban environments, such as the effects of traffic pollution, infectious diseases or other airborne hazards, and how can indoor air be protected and improved.

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The reconfigurable will allow researchers to understand how airborne particles – including viruses and pollution – move around transport systems and buildings such as airports and theatres, enabling better designs that improve our health and wellbeing.

CAVE will give a boost to the work being carried out across a broad spectrum of challenges, such as ensuring the UK is prepared for future virus outbreaks and can demonstrate best practice, and tackling high indoor air pollution levels in cities, which are of increasing concern in an urbanised society.

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The facility is constructed from a steel frame clad in composite cladding and rainscreen. The two storey building features office space, a community space, kitchens, a preparation lab, control rooms, and shower facilities. Mechanical plant has been installed on the second floor and roof to control the experimental conditions required within the lab space. Inside the lab space there are further internal thermal walls provided to control the temperature of the room between -5 to over 40 degrees and maintain the conditions required for the end user experiments.

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The facility is due to be officially launched in early 2024 and expands UCL’s significant investments in a suite of experimental facilities at LondonEast-UK, following an initial investment of nearly £40M in the Person Environment Activity Research Laboratory (PEARL), which was also delivered by VolkerFitzpatrick in 2021. It has won numerous sustainability awards and was named the UK’s first ‘fully-fitted’ BREEAM Outstanding building under the new guidance.

Stuart Deverill, managing director of VolkerFitzpatrick’s Building division, said: “I am extremely proud of the hard work and dedication which the team has shown in bringing this unique project to completion. The CAVE facility has been delivered to a high specification and with great care and attention to detail.”

Professor Nigel Titchener-Hooker, Executive Dean of UCL’s Faculty of Engineering, said: “UCL has a strong tradition of tackling important challenges in engineering. The CAVE laboratory follows UCL’s investment of £40M in PEARL, delivering a unique suite of facilities in Dagenham in terms of scale and their potential to help answer some of the big questions around how people interact with the built environment and how infrastructure design affects people. This is arguably one of the most pressing global concerns in light of our rapidly changing climate and the need to move to a low-carbon economy.”

CAVE will also support the UK innovation strategy in Energy and Environment Technologies, by advancing sustainable ways to reduce UK energy demand by 40% by 2050.