VolkerFitzpatrick delivers UK’s first ‘fully-fitted’ BREEAM Outstanding building under new guidance

Another ‘Outstanding’ rating was achieved by VolkerFitzpatrick under the latest BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) ‘New Construction 2018’ guidance, for University College London’s (UCL) world leading Person-Environment-Activity Research lab (PEARL). This is the UK's first 'fully-fitted' BREEAM Outstanding building under new guidance.

C13795 UCL Pearl BB Shoot 290321 PP_AAA0177_low res.jpg
C13795 UCL Pearl BB Shoot 290321 PP_AAA0177_low res.jpg

The completed facility in Dagenham is a state-of-the-art reconfigurable space, which can house life-sized simulated environments, such as a train station or high street, creating controlled conditions in which researchers can analyse people's interactions.

BREEAM is the world’s leading sustainability rating system for assessing the environmental impact of new non-domestic buildings. The organisation’s ‘New Construction 2018 update’ introduced new technical requirements during the construction specification process, including measuring unregulated and embodied energy; transport; health and wellbeing developments; and ensuring robustness in a changing climate. As of 2018, only one per cent of buildings achieved the ‘Outstanding’ rating1.

For the UCL PEARL development, VolkerFitzpatrick surpassed the contractual obligation of a ‘Very Good’ rating, to achieve ‘Outstanding’. The research facility scored 85.9 per cent and maximum marks in multiple categories. To gain an Outstanding BREEAM rating, the UCL PEARL project team fully embraced sustainability and embedded it into the earliest concept design stage and continued as a key driver throughout the detailed design and construction stages.

The Outstanding rating was achieved for the facility over several areas, including:

  • During construction the site was powered by renewable energy, while a smart metering system ensured that this energy was used efficiently.
  • The project significantly reduced embodied carbon by using local suppliers and materials. This included cement replacement products, a Cross Laminated Timber frame (within a specified area) and reusing crushed concrete and recycled aggregate from the site itself.
  • The development employs a range of climate mitigation measures, such as solar panels, rainwater harvesting and electric vehicle charging facilities. Approximately 4,000 square metres of roof-mounted solar panels - capable of producing 1693KW of energy - power the facility’s low-energy LED lighting and air-source heat pumps, with the excess energy going back into the grid. The facility is carbon-neutral and achieve an A+ Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).
  • To ensure ‘whole-life’ sustainability, PEARL supports a circular economy by being ‘Designed for Disassembly’ - a design principle that ensures a building’s components and materials can be either recycled or removed easily for reuse on another building.
  • Low VOC’s (harmful pollutants) finishes were selected internally, to provide the best air quality for the health and wellbeing of the building’s users.
  • Several social value projects and endeavours, such as working with local colleges, volunteering at local food banks and refurbishing core facilities at Greenwich and Bexley Hospice in East London, in association with CRASH charity. The site has also employed local people (up to 44 per cent), including local apprentices.

Stuart Deverill, divisional managing director for VolkerFitzpatrick, said: “This project pushed the boundaries of what’s expected in so many ways, so it’s fantastic to see our environmental diligence recognised with an Outstanding BREEAM certification.”

Nick Tyler, Chadwick Professor of Civil Engineering and Director of the UCL PEARL facility said: “Being the first completed building with a 2018-standard “Outstanding” award matches the overall aims of PEARL to provide the innovative research to enable the UK to have infrastructure and cities fit for people in the twenty-first century and beyond, by ensuring that the building we use is at the highest level of sustainability in its construction and operation”.