University of the West of England, Low Carbon Residences

University of the West of England
900 beds

At 900 beds, the new student accommodation will be one of the largest low carbon Passivhaus certified developments of its kind in the world.

The £80m project will help the University of the West of England (UWE) in Bristol to not only accommodate all first-year students on their Frenchay campus but also implement their net-zero carbon 2030 environmental strategy.

Building on a successful relationship

With a proven track record with UWE, a detailed knowledge of the local context, and the ability to mobilise quickly and effectively to meet UWE’s fast-track programme, we won the contract to provide design services and lead the consultant team at the end of 2019.

Our sustainable solution: pushing the boundaries of Passivhaus design

Our contextually sensitive solution comprises a total of ten six-storey, concrete-framed accommodation blocks designed to Passivhaus standards and configured to form a variety of landscaped courtyards across two sites.

Applying the Passivhaus standard will radically reduce the buildings’ energy requirements, keep the indoor temperature comfortable year-round, and significantly reduce the running costs of the development.

In order to achieve a net zero carbon development (operationally), we are utilising air source heat pumps for hot water generation and photovoltaics for heating and lighting.

Bringing the outdoors in

The building interiors utilise biophilic principles, incorporating natural finishes to reduce students’ stress, blood pressure and heart rates on the one hand and increase productivity, creativity and wellbeing on the other.

Communal facilities are arranged to ensure every student is close to social, study and laundry facilities. All facilities will open into landscaped courtyards to encourage students to meet and socialise.

A range of accommodation to suit different student needs

The accommodation includes a mix of bedroom typologies, aligned with a range of rent levels, to suit different student needs. The range includes eight-bed cluster flats with ensuite or shared bathrooms and four-bed or six-bed flats with ensuite bathrooms. A small number of studios and premium flats are also included along with a range of accessible bedrooms.

We led numerous face-to-face and virtual workshops with stakeholders, as well as issuing a student questionnaire, to gather views on issues relating to the new accommodation. The feedback from students directly informed the scheme’s final bedroom mix and social facilities.

Improving biodiversity and campus-wide connectivity

The development improves pedestrian connectivity across the campus and links existing landscape spaces together with new green corridors enhancing the natural environment with a 51.4% net gain in biodiversity across the two sites.

An integrated café and study hub are located on a new tree-lined boulevard linking the bus station and sports centre. This new pedestrian route will also provide access to a bookable dining room, demonstration kitchen and flexible exercise / cinema room.

Supporting good outcomes with robust data management

To verify that the design intent is realised in use, a full Soft Landings approach has been implemented to help ensure we close the gap between design intent and performance in use. We are leading the process of producing a digital Asset Information Model, which will help UWE to maintain and monitor progress against their 2030 targets.

Planning approval was granted in April 2021. The first phase is due to be fully occupied in 2024.