The Energy Technologies Building at the University of Nottingham is a research hub like no other. The European-funded centre for research into alternative energies is a world’s first in-use, zero-carbon laboratory. This BREEAM Outstanding centre was built with a constrained budget, yet is able to support leading-edge research into biofuel technology, has an extreme-climate simulating facility and an advanced, multisource multiple voltage converter for grid and on-site produced electricity.

In the creation of this groundbreaking laboratory, the first inspiring ideas came from a design charrette involving our building engineering team at competition stage. By the end of the day’s charrette, we had the concept for the building that won the competition along with numerous accolades once the building was completed.

Our engineering team worked with the university researchers and future building users to ensure that the operating systems (power, data, cooling and heating) were designed to be in sync with the work going on inside it. The unique combination of low-carbon design and energy-generating technology produces surplus heat and electricity, which is redirected to a nearby campus building. This not only helps to reduce energy demands in a highly intensive environment, but also serves to keep operating costs down.

The laboratory complex also features designs to minimise demand for heating, cooling, lighting and ventilation, including a biofuel district CHP. There is a green roof for rainwater attenuation and to absorb heat gain. And the centre’s hydrogen filling station is powered by renewable energy generated by the CHP as well as grid power. This is made possible via the Uniflex — the three-stage, smartpower distribution transformer being developed by the university. The roof is designed to carry PV panels in the future.