The recently completed £26m Maxwell Centre is the centrepiece for the University of Cambridge’s physical sciences and engineering industrial engagement activity. It is intended as a centre for carrying out ‘blue skies’ research with objectives relevant to industry and society at large, in areas including efficient electricity generation, storage and use.
Designed to be used by scientists from commercial organisations and academic research teams working alongside one another, the four-storey university building includes research laboratories, seminar rooms, meeting spaces and offices, dedicated to host collaborations with partners in industry.
As part of the goal of providing industry-grade working spaces for occupants, the University of Cambridge wanted the building to deliver cutting edge performance in terms of sustainability, and achieving BREEAM Excellent was a key goal for the project.
Michael Metcalfe, commercial sales manager at Pilkington United Kingdom Limited, said: “To be certified as BREEAM excellent, a building needs to score highly across a wide range of criteria including things like water use, health and wellbeing and waste levels.
“However, arguably the most important measurement is energy performance, and Excellent status can’t be awarded to any building that doesn’t achieve a high level of efficiency when tested.
“For a building like this, where the majority of the exterior walls consist of glazing, the choice of glass has a big impact on energy performance, as it’s essential to keep heat inside the building during the colder months and prevent excessive heating during the summer.”
To achieve this, Pilkington Insulight™ Sun double-glazed units were used throughout the building. These were constructed of an outer 6mm-thick pane of Pilkington Suncool™ glass and an inner 6mm Pilkington Optifloat™ Clear inner pane, separated by a 16mm argon-filled cavity.
The Pilkington Suncool™ glass features an advanced solar-control coating that reduces the amount of solar energy entering a building while maintaining high levels of transparency by selectively filtering out ultraviolet (UV) light. The 50/25 rated glass used in the project reduces overall solar energy entering the building by 50 per cent, but reduces transparency by just 25 per cent.
A holistic approach
John Dugan, director at Prism Architectural, said: “Achieving overall excellent performance from glazing in situ means using the right double-glazed units in combination with the right framing systems.
“The solar control capabilities of the units supplied by Pilkington, combined with leading framing systems from Wicona, has allowed us to implement a solution that offers a strong combination of solar control and insulation to deliver a comfortable interior environment efficiently all year round.
“I’d like to thank the teams at both suppliers for their excellent work on the project, allowing us to bring it in on time and to budget.”
Michael Metcalfe added: “The University of Cambridge is one of the world’s most prestigious academic institutions, and this building will play a vital role in broadening engagement with non-academic organisations to generate new knowledge and solutions that will benefit us all.
“I believe it’s testament to the quality of our products that they were selected for a project like this, where the goal is to achieve excellence in every aspect of the project.”
The building is named after physicist James Clerk Maxwell, who was the first Professor of Experimental Physics at Cambridge in 1871 and who among other formulated classical theory of electromagnetism, and made foundational contributions to statistical mechanics.
- Project: The Maxwell Centre, University of Cambridge
- Client: The University of Cambridge
- Architect: BDP
- Glazing installer: Prism Architectural