The installation of highly innovative thatched cassettes cladding the £11.6m Enterprise Centre – the UK’s greenest commercial building – marks another key construction milestone at the University of East Anglia. A completely new way of using thatch, the cassette cladding is one of the key sustainable elements being incorporated into the build project, developed by the Adapt Low Carbon Group and delivered by Morgan Sindall.
Combining traditional craft with modern methods of construction, it is the first time this unique thatch cassette cladding system has been used anywhere in the world. It is anticipated that the technique, which comes with a wide range of economic, environmental and safety benefits, could be replicated on many future construction projects – paving the way for thatch to return to its former position as a mainstream construction material.
The pioneering concept of thatch cassettes was conceived by Morgan Sindall and its design team with project architects, Architype. The process involves fabricating a set of timber cassette modules that are filled with straw in local thatcher’s barns across Norfolk. The prefabricated thatch cassette panels are then transported to site and erected onto the façade of the building as a rainscreen cladding.
Thatch cladding is just one innovative element of The Enterprise Centre, which is leading the way in low carbon construction. To date the development is on course to achieve the highest global sustainability building standards; BREEAM Outstanding and Passivhaus certification. It will also have one of the lowest embodied carbon footprints of any building of its size in the UK.
Thatching is a traditional craft which is generally in decline but we have already seen evidence that by using thatch in this innovative way on this project, the trade is generating a renewed interest that will help to reinvigorate this industry locally, and in time, nationally. Thatch is a carbon-negative material, it’s also highly insulative and offers exceptional rainscreen protection – so it is a great material to use as cladding. The use of cassettes to place the thatch on the walls as cladding is a unique approach and a great example of the creativity and originality which the project team has brought to this project.
Well ahead of its opening in May 2015, The Enterprise Centre is already proving to be a catalyst for change. Adapt has also set its sights on the Centre fostering innovation, stimulating smarter ways of working, promoting new industry standards and creating new supply chains. The Enterprise Centre will include an innovation lab, 300-seat lecture theatre, flexible workspace, teaching and learning facilities and first class amenities to inspire and facilitate creativity and collaboration – an unparalleled working environment. By placing academic and commercial users side by side, it will encourage students to interact with businesses and be motivated to start their own enterprises. For more information visit http://theenterprisecentre.uea.ac.uk/news/thatch