Lantern-inspired Sustainable Research Building is China's first zero carbon university building
The Koo Lee Institute of Sustainable Environments, named after its benefactor, sits in a large meadow alongside a stream in Ningbo, a fast growing city of 1.2 million inhabitants on the oriental coast of China. Created and led by Nottingham's School of the Built Environment, the Institute stands in the first independent campus of the People’s Republic of China. Within the Institute, a new facility, Centre for Sustainable Energy Technologies (CSET), stands. Designed by Mario Cucinella Architects, an Italian practice at the forefront of environmental research and responsible for the SIEEB building in Beijing, the new Sustainable Research Building illustrates an international collaboration towards sustainability in the world's greatest energy consuming country.
Inspired in its design by Chinese lantern and traditional wooden screens, the building is conceived as a sustainable beacon whose 22 m high twisting tower will be visible from all around the campus, creating many different facades diversifying its appearance from day to night.
The building, entirely clad in a double skin of glass, is organised on six floors: five floors above ground and a semi-basement floor offering a total net area of approximately 1150 sq m. Access is via the ramp from ground level to the semi basement where the reception area is located. From this point visitors are directed into the exhibition areas, while staff and students will be able to access the workshop/lab as well as the teaching/office spaces located on the upper floors of the tower.
The building has been designed to be carefully insulated and protected from winter cold winds and strong direct summer solar radiations. The external envelope of the building plays a key role in controlling the environmental strategies: the structure is completely sealed on the north side and partly open on the other three sides in order to provide the sufficient penetration of daylight. The system of windows optimises the influx of sunlight and minimises the need for artificial illumination. Four tilted triangular shaped skylights contribute to provide a sufficient level of natural light into the semi-basement floor areas and are designed with an orientation to the north, avoiding the direct solar radiation. A series of openings, distributed on the sides of the building in order to guarantee a cross ventilation system, are positioned in the concrete wall. A large rooftop opening brings natural light to all floors of the building, simultaneously creating a flue effect to promote efficient natural ventilation.
Professor Jo Darkwa, Director of CSET remarks: "The Centre is an outstanding demonstration of Architecture and Environmental Engineering in the development of sustainable construction. China is the fastest growing economy and energy consuming country in the world. The construction industry is also the fastest growing with about 2 billion square meters of buildings which is equivalent to about 80,000 new skyrise buildings per year. These are some of the reasons why the Centre was established in cooperation with our Local partners to make practical contributions towards Sustainable Development in China and the world as a whole.”