Sustainable Building Meets Architectural Glory

Buildings originally designed for chickens rarely garner awards, but with a bit of work and some sustainable practices any old coop can become king of the roost. Beaufort Court in Kings Langley won a 2004 Sustainable Building Award from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) because of the renovation work and renewable energy applications implemented by Renewable Energy Systems (RES) and Studio E architects.

Kings Langley, United Kingdom — September 10, 2004 [] Not that Beaufort Court was any old coop. It used to house chickens owned by the Ovaltine Company. RES, a wind energy development company, bought the building with the intention of making it into the new headquarters and a renewable energy visitors’ center. A wind turbine, solar photovoltaic (PV) and thermal array, geoexchange system and biomass furnace have turned the historic landmark into energy efficient and zero-emissions tribute to sustainable business practices. Strategically placed ventilation windows and earth-dome design elements complete the £4.9 million (US$ 8.74 million) project. Partial funding for the project came from the European Union Framework 5 Program. The 225 kW wind turbine came from a Vestas wind farm in the Netherlands, and is connected to both the buildings’ electrical distribution network and to the national UK power grid. It is expected to generate 250 MWh annually, which is greater than the anticipated building consumption. Excess power will be exported to the grid. RES didn’t try to attach the hybrid PV and thermal array to the original egg farm building. A new building to hold the elephant grass biomass crop, which is planted in a field adjacent to the headquarters building, doubles as a base for the array. A total of 170 square meters of PV and thermal panels from ECN, Shell Solar and Zen Solar produce electricity and hot water. A biomass crop for the boiler will not be ready for a winter harvest until late in 2005. But when the 100 kW boiler does come on line it should provide the majority of the heat needs in the building. Extra hot water from the solar thermal array will be stored in an underground heat stor to meet any extra needs the building has. Summer cooling will be taken care of by a 75-meter deep borehole in chalk aquifer ground water. First, the water is used to cool and dehumidify the incoming air to the buildings in the air-handling units. The water is then circulated at 15 degrees Celsius through chilled beams at high level in the offices. Water from the aquifer will also be used to irrigate the elephant grass crop. Each zone of the building has its own temperature control, and the air in the building will be heated in a hierarchy of the available sources. Solar thermal heat is used directly if available; solar thermal heat from the seasonal heat store is then used, followed by biomass heat, and finally natural gas heat as a back-up option. Judges for the Royal British Institute of Architecture said the Beaufort Court building was commendable because “the conversion and reconstruction has incorporated energy technology – with architectural style, minimalism, practicality and impeccable detailing – to a degree that the technology is almost invisible. The project is a demonstration of how to absorb a technology that will increasingly become obligatory, and a slight to architect eco-fundamentalists who incorporate such technology with the elegance of collapsed scaffolding.” Information for this story is courtesy of Studio E Architects in London
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