In June 2010, Morgan Sindall began work on a massive transformation of the existing University of Leicester Students’ Union building, known as Percy Gee. The building achieved a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ for its commitment to sustainability.
Energy Efficiency: The entire Percy Gee building has been rewired with modern energy efficient light fittings. The original building was robustly constructed with load bearing thick brick walls as well as solid floors partly cut into the landscape and so already had a very good ‘thermal mass’. By building around this existing structure, the thermal qualities of Percy Gee have been maintained. A biomass boiler has been installed for times when heating is required and fuel is sourced locally. This is supported by a gas boiler in case of any disruption to supply.
Transport: A central cycling story facility encourages cycling as a preferred mode of transportation.
Water Efficiency: A rainwater harvesting system is in use that collects water from the roof and stores it in the basement for use in flushing toilets.
Materials: The timber used in the project was specified as FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified to ensure that it could be traced from sustainable sources.
Indoor environmental quality: The main new feature of the refurbished building is a nightclub which has been built below the original floor. A mechanical ventilation system has been put in place which ensures that air conditioning for the club is required only when it is full. At other times, ventilation can be drawn from a tower that rises through the building to the roof.
The new central area of the building is lit using natural lighting provided by a glass roof and partly glass wall. A gap deliberately left between the square’s floor and the walkways below allows more natural light to penetrate through the building. The square’s windows are all on a building management system which senses temperature and carbon dioxide levels to adjust the amount of fresh air entering the area.
Operations and maintenance: A post occupancy evaluation of the project was completed in January 2012, ensuring that the building met the requirements of occupants.
Waste reduction: The project was designed to compliment the existing structure where possible in order to minimise any waste by demolition.
Summary: The refurbished building was scheduled for work between the summer and the Fresher’s ball. This was to allow, where possible, the union to maintain functionality as usual and to ensure as little disruption to students and staff as possible. The most visible change to the facility is the addition of an atrium bridging the gap between the previously U-shaped building. The atrium’s glass roof allows sunlight to illuminate the interior, reducing reliance on artificial lighting and improving the wellbeing of users. This also provides a central thoroughfare to the building, minimizing the required travel distance for people with mobility issues. The building has been certified as BREEAM ‘Excellent’.