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Heavy masonry, old-fashioned radiators, no air-conditioning - modern architecture at UCL

6 February 2006

A building that uses the heavy masonry typical of the Victorian period, high-tech computer-controlled ecologically-friendly cooling systems and the simple science of light, air and water, will soon be the new home to UCL SSEES (the School of Slavonic and East European Studies). The ‘green’ building will be completed in Spring 2005 and is intended to become a model of environmentally friendly construction – a feat given that it will be set on the last open plot in Bloomsbury, London – a 28m by 28m space on Taviton Street.

Natural lighting will be used where possible in this 3500m² building through external windows and a central lightwell that will run vertically through the building to light all seven storeys. However, a building within a building design will be employed to ensure temperatures are not affected by this. The void between the two buildings – the inner and outer shells - will cool the air and ensure that direct sunlight does not heat up the inner building. Across the top of the lightwell, cool water pipes, that look like old-fashioned radiators, will cool air and circulate it around the building. The heavy masonry also prevents big swings in temperatures and so reduces the need for air conditioning and heating.

The foundation stone of the new building will be unveiled on 5th May by the Polish President Aleksander Kwaśniewski during his first visit to the UK after his country’s accession to the European Union.

Alan Short, founder of Short & Associates, said: "Architects have a fascination with ultra-lightweight envelopes. In the summer in our climate very lightweight, glassy buildings are almost inevitably cooled using air conditioning. In aggregate this appears to be having a harmful effect on the environment and a more determined design effort is needed to prevent this massive waste of energy. This building combines ancient techniques with ones that have never been used before. The engineering is sophisticated, the brick façade is seamless, with no movement joints, so indicative of bricks merely used as wallpaper glued to concrete."

George Kolankiewicz, director of UCL SSEES said: “The building designs look really dramatic. We didn’t want just an oblong which was the most likely shape for the space available. The D-shape really grabbed us as did the architect’s concern to build with the environment in mind. We think this will be an amazing achievement – especially in the middle of London where space is limited.”


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Notes for Editors

1. For further information and pictures please contact Alex Brew in the media relations team on 020 7679 9726