Oxford University Earth Sciences Building has been Highly Commended in the “Performance in Use” category at the Constructing Excellence in London and the South East Awards. The highly coveted awards were presented at a black-tie gala dinner at the Church House Conference Centre in London on 20 June. More than 300 leading construction industry professionals attended the awards which proved so popular that tickets were sold out just eight days after finalists were announced.

Oxford University’s £30m Earth Sciences teaching and research facility comprises a five-storey office and teaching wing and a four-storey specialist laboratory wing, linked by an atrium entrance. Earth Sciences is one of the first laboratory buildings in the UK to use a Ground Source Energy System (GSES) to control the ground loop temperature to maximise carbon savings. The University, Hoare Lea and GI Energy wanted to prove the viability of the GSES to eliminate the performance gap between how buildings are designed and how they are run. The team overcame initial technical problems such as inaccurate meters and early-life equipment failures of compressors and actuators. There were also communication faults between the Building Management System (BMS) and the GSES control system, and problems with remote access to the GSES control system. Every issue was addressed and the BMS modified so that the system is now delivering greater carbon emission savings than anticipated.

The judging panel for the Performance in Use award, which was sponsored by SECBE, reported that: “The team spotted weaknesses in the initial performance of the building, worked together to resolve the issues and have captured key lesson learned which are being shared with the industry.”

Derek Rees, Regional Director of Constructing Excellence in London and the South East commented: “The construction industry is a vital driver of the UK economy which supports hundreds of thousands of skilled jobs. All our finalists have demonstrated outstanding technical ability and commitment to customer satisfaction, and the Earth Sciences Building team thoroughly deserve the recognition.”

Chris Davidson, GI Energy’s Director of Development, said: “I am delighted that our team’s achievements have been recognised in the Constructing Excellence in London and the South East Awards. There were many challenges at Oxford Earth Sciences which they successfully overcame, with the carbon savings in the first year alone exceeding expectations by 23%, despite the building requiring double the amount of heating and, at peak times, up to ten times the level of cooling that was originally anticipated.”

Ian Ogden, Design Director for Headline Sponsors, Westfield, said: “We recognise and affiliate ourselves with the values and contribution of Constructing Excellence to the regeneration of the built environment. Our projects in London have acted as a significant catalyst and economic engine for the rejuvenation of the Region.  We remain committed to developing high quality retail and leisure complexes to enhance and regenerate areas within London and the South East. We are honoured and delighted to continue our sponsorship of Constructing Excellence London and South East Annual Awards.”