Building Performance Champion
Winner: St John's College, Oxford, Library and Study Centre – Max Fordham
This exemplar university project fully deserves the Building Performance Champion title and is another feather in the cap for Max Fordham.
Judges were impressed by its well-considered approach to carbon neutral design and praised the detailed whole-life carbon analysis, attention to aftercare and its focus on occupant comfort.
At the heart of the carbon neutral energy strategy is a large photovoltaic array and ground source heat pump; it provides heating for the whole building and cooling for the server and archive workroom.
A natural ventilation system controlled by the BMS provides summer cooling and ensures excellent indoor air quality and comfortable temperatures. Manual overrides allow library staff to control the windows themselves, if they wish.
Judges praised the attempt to assess the embodied carbon of potential materials even though there was no set definition at the time. The building is clad in stone, which has a low embodied carbon, while sills and copings are in harder-wearing limestone.
The concrete frame makes up a significant portion of the building’s embodied energy but its thermal mass has the benefit of reducing peak temperatures and helps provide a stable internal environment.
Max Fordham used the latest tools and calculation methodologies to ensure optimal comfort and building efficiency. CIBSE’s TM54 enabled the project team to estimate operational energy at the design stage, while the TM52 methodology, predicting overheating, ensured the building will be resilient in the face of future climate change.
Many of the aspects of the Soft Landings framework have been adopted, including monitoring of energy performance and the internal environment after handover. This ensured that the systems controlling the ground source heat pump, lighting and natural ventilation could be optimised once the building was occupied.
The attention to detail and the aspiration for a carbon neutral building has been borne out by the building’s performance. It is well within RIBA’s interim 2025 operation performance target of 75 kWh/m2/yr.