Cockcroft Building / University of Brighton

In repurposing the Cockcroft Building at the University of Brighton, one of the largest retrofits of an occupied academic building in the UK, Fraser Brown MacKenna was tasked with transforming a building designed for the Atomic Age into a research environment for the Information Age. The building was reaching the end of its useful life and this first opportunity for a wholesale refurbishment provided the chance to replace its outdated infrastructure and address issues of overheating, solar glare, high energy costs and complex way-finding, as well as improve the building’s fabric which had battled against the corrosive maritime climate for half a century. We sought to reduce energy demand and then to meet residual energy needs from renewable sources.

The refurbishment of the Cockcroft Building involved a major retrofit of a ten-storey building including; replacement of external windows and complete demolition of all existing internal walls to create new state-of-the-art research and administration spaces, a lecture theatre, teaching and research laboratories and academic offices. Roofs and external walls were also upgraded beyond Part L requirements. The refurbishment also involved replacing all of the mechanical, electrical, and public health services, and installation of large scale renewable systems at roof level and underground.

The building remained in use throughout – one of the key challenges for the contractor Willmott Dixon Interiors, who were given access to only two floors of the building at a time. WDI implemented very strict rules about the hours in which the firm could undertake noisy activities and in 2015 were presented with a Considerate Constructors Scheme National Site Award (Gold) in recognition for hard work and effort made in raising the bar for considerate construction.

The holistic architectural, structural and building services design has unlocked the hidden environmental potential of the building itself, with a new pattern of circulation and exposed thermal mass working in tandem with the latest technology that includes an Aquifer Thermal Energy Store. The building now has an EPC ‘B’ rating, far in excess of what is required for a standard Part L refurbishment (a considerable uplift on its previous ‘F’ rating). The University has been monitoring the performance of the large roof PV array and it is currently outperforming predictions, generating over 45,000kWh per year.

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