Modern Builder - February 2015

The challenge for every architect is to perfectly combine form and function, yet few will have managed this as perfectly as the CREST project in Enniskillen. Paul McAlister Architects has created a benchmark in sustainable design that is one of the most sustainable buildings in the UK and Ireland and the first education building in the province with PassivHaus Certification. It even picked up an award before it was officially opened, winning the Sustainable Building Project of the Year title at the Sustainable Ireland Awards.

The building perfectly replicates its function, with the design and construction creating a facility that practises what it preaches. In fact, a section of the facility will be used for exactly that – to be a demonstration building to showcase its pioneering sustainable design and construction. 
Yet meeting all these exacting credentials was achieved within a specific timeframe and, importantly, within budget, proving both the short-term and, vitally, the long-term costeffectiveness of sustainable construction. CREST – Centre for Renewable Energy and  Sustainable Technologies - is a sustainable technology research facility that provides demonstration and testing facilities to showcase innovative products and processes and the use of renewable technologies in construction. It comprises three areas - the Hub, the Research & Development Lab, and the Pavilion. 

The Pavilion – which is designed to engage local industry through experiencing new sustainable technologies and materials – is a completely new construction, while both the Hub and Research & Development lab have been integrated into the existing Skills Centre building. 
As a perfect example of the ‘practise what you preach’ ethos, the Pavilion also has the purpose of being a demonstration building for the pioneering design principles and construction methods adopted within it, making it an exemplar working model for other construction schemes, both locally and nationally. And as a benchmark of success, it doesn’t get much better than this.

The Pavilion has been constructed to meet three sustainable credentials – to be PassivHaus Certified for the energy-efficient envelope and ventilation system; BREEAM excellent in terms of the BRE sustainable benchmark for UK commercial buildings; and Zero Carbon, ie the building can provide, by renewable energy, its own source of heat and lighting. Whilst a combination of two of these sustainable criteria has been carried out in other parts of the UK, CREST is the first example of a combination of all three. Paul McAlister, Managing Director of Paul McAlister Architects, said that CREST was both the most complicated and most satisfying project he had worked on. “We had 11 people working on the design, which gives you an idea of the challenges we faced and also the attention to detail required to make this project a success,” he said. “We feel that the combination of the PassivHaus, BREEAM and Zero Carbon credentials, integrated with the appropriate renewable technology, makes this project a shining example of sustainable development. 

“We used a combination of sustainable design criteria when designing this scheme to make sure it met these three essential criteria, but more predominant than that in our minds was our desire to create a project that had inherently sustainable credentials at its heart, creating a target for other construction projects in the future. 

We are proud of what we have achieved.” The design team took considerable care with the specification of every component to ensure that the building envelope was constructed with the appropriate materials and details in accordance with the six principles of PassivHaus design, as well as integrating BREEAM guidelines into the design of this Zero Carbon building. Central to this was the use of a thermal model during the design process, which allowed them to make modifications and also test the design to ensure it would meet the desired target energy rating of 15kWh/m2.a. “The design stage is vital to the success of every project but, with CREST, it was critical, and we had so many elements that we simply just had to get right at the design stage,” said Paul. ”But having achieved the PassivHaus, BREEAM excellent and carbon neutral standards, we set out to meet makes this a landmark building in terms of sustainable credentials for Northern Ireland, Ireland and the UK.”