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The new Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts building is just as sleek as it is generous. The three-storey building designed by London’s SheppardRobson Architects is only the second educational building that has met BREEAM, the highest British sustainability standard.
LICA surpasses these requirements and reaches the highest level in the BREEAM system (“outstanding”), which was created just two years ago. Six million British Pounds is the cost of the 4,900-square-metre new building – a low price even in Britain, where pressure on construction prices is high. One reason for this was that the upper storey was left as just a shell construction. Further development for this section will only take place when the rooms are needed and their purpose is clear.
Currently, the building holds studios, offices and seminar rooms for art, design, film, music and theatre studies. According to the architects it should be a ‘display window’ for exactly these activities. Internally, the building is open, while externally it mostly ranges from translucent to transparent.
Artists mostly prefer to work in spaces with a raw industrial aesthetic instead of somewhere shiny and shimmery. In the future, this requirement will be fulfilled for the students of LICA in the northern English town of Lancaster by the institute's main location – a new three-story building constructed from plank plywood with a translucent polycarbonate shell, from the architectural office of London’s SheppardRobson.
The new building is a part of the university's overall strategy to reduce its CO2 emissions by 35 between 2005 and 2012. As part of this plan, all new buildings constructed in this timeframe on campus should at least meet the BREEAM standard of “excellent” and the level “very good” for building sanitation.
The primary structure is made of plank plywood, a material "imported" from central Europe that is currently enjoying a growing popularity in sustainable building in Britain. Its usage – according to the specifications of the architect – not only contributed to the short construction time (10 weeks until the completion of the construction shell), but also to the airtightness of the building envelope (3.02m³/h/m²).
The polycarbonate envelope homogenously covers all the closed exterior surfaces; furthermore, individual façade elements were formed into a translucent shell from three layers of polycarbonate. Inside, bright wood and a spatial generosity dominate the rooms, mainly due to the fact that the architects shunned the individual offices often seen in academia in favour of open-plan offices.
The building is heated by a campus-based block heating works and is also integrated into a campus-wide building management system. The largest part of the space will, of course, be ventilated; only in the event rooms will mechanical ventilation with a heat recovery system be installed. On the roof is a 118-square-metre photovoltaic section that should cover some of the electricity usage in the building. And, of course, the LICA meets the “A” qualification in building energy footprint. In Britain, it is the CO2 emission of each square meter rather than the primary energy demand that covers this. At LICA, this measures 10.3 kg CO2/m²a.