Tuesday 12 July 2011, by admin

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The Blaenau Gwent pilot REGAIN building is currently under construction. The design and development process was quite long and complex. It has changed its site location five times, and its orientation twice. The final version Gaining Planning consent for the building was also complicated because of restrictions of the site masterplan. The global financial crisis created huge difficulties for the masterplan in terms of development phasing and timescales. To allow any developments to progress (including REGAIN), the masterplan had to be modified.

Maintaining flexibility for the building and the site were explicit requirements of the design at the outset. This aspect of the design made it easier to adapt the principles to accommodate the changes in site and building orientation.
To address these requirements, a modular type of sustainable construction was examined, which used a number of identical prefabricated units. Once the building principles and technologies were chosen, modifying the layout to suit different sites would be significantly easier. It was decided that a simple linear layout would be practical, simple and economical to construct.

Passive design principles have been be employed to minimise energy consumption. The building fabric is very heavily insulated, broadly to Passivhaus standards, and the layout has been kept simple and flexible. Deep plans have been avoided in order that the building can be naturally-ventilated. All glazing has been carefully-designed to avoid overheating, while benefitting from solar gain.
The Passivhaus approach was not utilized because it relies on building elements and technologies which need to be imported from Europe. Although a much more energy-efficient approach, is implies a narrower definition of sustainability. For the building, we have attempted to ensure that locally-manufactured and/or supplied materials would be used wherever possible. The principle is to choose the best and most reliable technology sourced as close as possible to the site.

Maximum use would be made of low-tech, durable, local and low maintenance materials. This reduces maintenance costs and tries to keep the investment costs in the local area to help to stimulate the economy in an economically deprived area.
All heating and hot water requirements are provided by renewable sources. The building features solar hot water and a large photovoltaic panel array on the roof of the cycle shelter. Heating is provided by an air source heat pump with a high seasonal coefficient of performance.
The designs have been subject to detailed environmental analysis to predict building performance and energy consumption. The results have been used to influence the choice of site, form, materials, construction and layout.

Construction commenced in the last quarter of 2010 and is scheduled for completion in the third quarter of 2011.

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