Technology Centre, Baglan, near Swansea

Our innovative M&E design, energy model and structural simplicity are key to this pathfinder project, part funded by Swansea Bay City Deal, that creates an energy positive building for entrepreneurial start-ups.

Swansea Bay Technology Centre, Swansea - Hydrock

Heralded as an ‘energy positive’ building, the Technology Centre is a £8m, three-storey, 2,500 sq m hybrid building at Baglan Energy Park. Scheduled for completion in January 2022, it’s designed to provide high quality, flexible office and laboratory space to start-up companies in the fields of R&D, technology and innovation, accommodating over 200 jobs and 35 enterprises in total.

Our Cardiff-based team have delivered the engineering design from RIBA Stage 1 and will take the scheme through handover and post-occupancy evaluation as part of our specific energy modelling role to design a building that acts as a power station, producing more energy than it consumes.

We are collaborating with Morgan Sindall Construction as main contractor, IBI architects and Neath Port Talbot Council on the scheme. Research group, Solcer (Smart Operation for a Low Carbon Energy Region) who are focused on renewable energy, helped to develop the early proposals.

The Technology Centre forms part of the Council’s Supporting Innovation and Low Carbon Growth programme which is due to be part-funded by the £1.3 billion Swansea Bay City Deal – a portfolio of nine major programmes and projects through the Swansea Bay City Region.

Cllr Annette Wingrave, Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Sustainable Development, said: “By constructing this hybrid technology centre building of around 2,500 square metres of high-quality flexible office space in a strategic employment site, the project will support and encourage the growth of jobs in strategic sectors identified in the region (both start-ups and indigenous businesses), leading to growth in jobs and increased value for the region’s economy.”

Simplicity the key

As a pathfinder project, the main focus has been on how to design a sustainable, energy positive commercial building at an appropriate cost. This has been facilitated through a simple structural design.

Working with the architect, whose initial concept came from parametric modelling, Hydrock’s structural engineering team designed a repetitive grid model for the building utilising a steel frame. The hyper-simple detailing and maximisation of spaces allowed the design and budget to be focussed on making the building energy positive. Inside the space is arranged to enable walls to be moved at ease so start-up, technology-led businesses can size up and down as appropriate.

In addition, the external works and drainage design has been developed and approved through the regulation 3 SuDS legislation, utilising swales, basins and other SuDS features, as well as accounting for the existing open features on site.

Energy simulations pave the way to an energy positive result

Our Building Performance Engineering spearheaded the ‘building as a power-station’ design, utilising a ‘dynamic simulation model’ to forensically interrogate the predicted energy use and equivalent generation.

With the goal to produce more energy than it consumes on an annual basis, our work included:

  • A complete passive design focused on the building fabric to make it airtight, optimising construction orientation and massing, and making the structure work with the systems
  • Maximising the efficiencies from technology, for example advocating a hybrid VRF heat and cooling and central air handling unit, with heat recovery, delivering fresh air via a demand control system, which reduces the fan running times.
  • Simulating occupancy and equipment usage, including fine tuning the building management system so that, for example, non-essential equipment shuts down completely when not in use, and only low-level lights operate at night
  • Advising on a highly efficient mix of renewable and low carbon technologies, with particular emphasis on PV; maximising the roof coverage by ensuring all MEP equipment is housed inside and integrating PV modules into the facades that are most exposed to sunlight

We started by establishing a baseline for operational energy consumption and then through fine-tuning the various technologies and passive measures listed above, we reached a point where we could evidence that the building will generate more energy than it consumes.

The Technology Centre has been designed in such a way that the excess energy from the building will be converted into hydrogen at the nearby Hydrogen Centre to fuel hydrogen vehicles.

The building is on track to gain a high scoring BREAAM Excellent rating, with an almost unheard of 100% score for Energy Credit 01 (ENE01), covering energy performance, prediction of operational energy, beyond zero net regulated carbon, carbon negativity and post-occupancy evaluation. Furthermore, the development is set to achieve an energy performance ratio of 0.998, i.e. a 281% improvement over building regulations.

The Technology Centre is a clear demonstration as to how buildings of the future - that are simple, elegant, sustainable and produce more energy than they use - are commercially viable now, when present technology is combined with innovative design and a dedicated client vision.