University of Nottingham - Energy Technology Building

Design & Build

Undertaken in partnership with the University of Nottingham, this ground-breaking project consisted of the design and construction of the world’s first zero-carbon operational laboratory complex to facilitate research into bioenergy, hydrogen fuels, carbon capture and storage, biomass and sustainable architecture.
The three-storey building houses specialist laboratories, a prototype hall, exhibition area, rooftop laboratory zone, and offices, as well as an external technology area for use as an energy testing facility.


Construction of the building incorporated recycled materials in accordance with the BRE Green Guide to Specification. Pulverised fuel ash - a recycled cement replacement - was used in the concrete frame, which also features reinforcements made from recycled steel.

Site Challenges

The site was situated within the heart of a live University campus adjacent to a thoroughfare used by students, and within just metres of another contractor delivering the construction of the university’s Romax Technology Centre, which meant that delivering this project safely while causing minimal disruption was paramount.
We liaised with the University estates team, the security department, the students, staff as well as the other contractor to carefully schedule noisy/disruptive works to avoid any sensitive or particularly busy periods. We kept the University consistently updated on our project progress through regular ‘Look Ahead’ meetings, site tours, and online updates. The access and car parking were shared with the other contractor and we liaised regularly with them to coordinate deliveries and major tasks such as lifting operations to take place at the most suitable times.


The building’s features include low-energy lighting, rainwater harvesting, low-flow water taps, fittings and demand-led WC natural ventilation systems; as well as a low-energy lift system. The building minimises the need for heating, cooling, lighting and ventilation and uses renewable and ambient sources including its own smart grid.

Environmental and Social Value

We achieved a BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ rating through working closely with the University and design team members to produce the University’s and one of the UK’s lowest carbon buildings incorporating numerous sustainable technologies including an innovative earth duct passive cooling system which uses thermal mass of the surrounding earth to provide passive cooling and pre-heating of ventilation air.

Multi-award-winning project

This prestigious project achieved the following awards in testament to its design, innovation and sustainability credentials:

  • 2013 Construction News Awards (Highly Commended Sustainable Project of the Year);
  • RICS 2013 Design and Innovation
  • 2013 Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) Centenary Engineering Excellence Awards Building Services Large Firm Award.
  • BREEAM Education Award 2014