Make completes the UK's largest straw-bale building for University of Nottingham
The landmark Gateway Building is the first stage of a 20-year masterplan to expand the University of Nottingham's Sutton Bonington agricultural campus and enhance its reputation as a leading destination for the study of plant and animal sciences. Completed in 2011 it brings together the Schools of Biosciences and Veterinary and Medical Sciences.
Currently the largest straw-bale building in the UK, with 3,100 sq m of space, the development has been designed to accommodate a wide range of functions - offices, laboratories, refrigerated storage, seminar and computer rooms - while comfortably providing for many different users, including researchers, students, teachers and administration staff. To maximise the use of the space, the efficiency of the floorplate reaches an impressive 80 per cent.
The concept for the building was inspired by the natural rhythm of the tree-line adjacent to the site. The repetitive narrow, vertical elements are finished in render separated by exposed timber fins, and a modern glazing system arranged in between to further enhance the rhythm and contrast. The entire front facade, which contains the main entrance, is a sleek clear-glazed curtain wall.
Hidden from view, externally, is the building's key material - straw - a natural, traditional, agricultural material which was produced on the University's farm, just 200m from the site. In an era threatened by global warming, straw is undergoing resurgence due to its superb insulation qualities and its availability as a renewable and often local material with minimal production costs.
At the Gateway Building, straw construction has been taken one level further and been applied for the first time as a curtain wall, in which each panel covers all four floors of the building in one prefabricated piece. The entire assembly and installation of this innovative curtain wall took less than 10 weeks.
It was cheap and quick to build, and the straw bale cassettes have a U-value of just 0.135 W/m2, which is 60% better than required by current Part L regulations. Construction began in May 2010 and was completed on time and on budget 12 months later, achieving an ‘excellent' BREEAM rating for energy efficiency. Its annual carbon dioxide emissions are predicted to be 23.6 kg/m2, representing a 22% improvement on current Part L regulations.