The first UK office to be awarded Passivhaus Plus status, the RIBA and BCO award-winning Bicester Eco Business Centre is a pioneering ecological building, providing a sociable, healthy and vibrant workspace in Oxfordshire.
Achieving zero carbon in operation, as well as Passivhaus Plus and BREEAM Outstanding ratings and an A+ rated Energy Performance Certificate, the building is a mix of co-working and private office spaces. Every aspect of design – from form to materiality - was considered to engender a sense of community, health and wellbeing.
- Cherwell District Council
- Gross Internal Floor Area
- 1147 sqm
- Construction Type
- Hybrid construction of concrete frame and timber larsen-truss infill panels
- Total Project Costs
- Completion Aug ‘18
Cherwell District Council’s North West Bicester eco town is a revolutionary development of over 6,000 highly sustainable homes, public facilities and infrastructure with ambitious zero carbon goals. The striking, timber-finned business centre is a cornerstone to the project offering flexible office space to residents, many of whom would otherwise commute to Oxford or London.
The centre offers a warm welcome and a light, healthy and well-ventilated environment for up to 125 business and entrepreneurial tenants, encouraging sociability and connections. The ground floor space, with sofas and a café, is open to anyone passing by the office creating a vibrant hub. Eleven companies are currently operating out of the centre, bringing valuable jobs to the local economy. The centre also provides an excellent base for the growing number of self-employed residents to work from, retaining creativity and expertise in the region.
Sensitively designed, the building strikes an important balance between a distinctive industrial aesthetic without imposing on the surrounding residential zones. A spacious terrace area offers external shaded space to each floor.
Blueprint for zero carbon design
The new Passivhaus Plus standard radically reduces energy use and off-sets all energy consumption through the addition of renewable energy with rooftop PVs and connections to the district heating system. The BREEAM Outstanding rating was gained through the use of non-toxic interiors and plentiful bike parking and public transport links to offer a holistic ecological approach. Design adheres to the Eco-Town standards devised by the Town and Country Planning Association which considered water use, biodiversity and carbon emissions, with the target of net zero in use. For future flexibility, the floors are raised and the timber walls have been designed to be easily demountable, allowing future reconfiguration. The Mechanical Ventilation Heat Recovery (MVHR) system means every part of the building receives fresh air, which reduces the risk of airborne pathogens like Covid spreading, creating a healthier space.
Inside, the design provides opportunities for collaboration and chance meetings. Shared refreshment stations are placed on each floor to create sociable breakout spaces rather than separate facilities for each office. The circulation was configured to maximise interaction with a shared central staircase and corridors wide enough so that building users can step aside and have informal chats. Collaborative spaces provide a mixed arrangement of flexible hot-desking areas, self-contained offices and dedicated communal areas – including a pop-up cafe. All are connected by a triple height atrium and multi-use space that promotes interaction, fostering a sense of community.
At a time of climate emergency, the centre provides a blueprint for future office builds and easily achieves the RIBA 2030 operational energy target of 55 kWh/m2 with a net final energy consumption (regulated and unregulated) of 2.4kWh/m2, significantly lower than traditional office buildings.
Workers benefit from fresh air, low CO2 levels for better concentration, less dust and airborne pathogens thanks to efficient MVHR systems, as well as plenty of daylighting from generous glazing. Stable temperatures are achieved through excellent insulation and careful solar shading. Generous floor to ceiling heights of 3.2 metres create a feeling of light and space. Architype’s expertise in biophilic design informed the non-toxic and natural palette of materials used within the building. Healthy and sustainable choices such as breathable hygroscopic walls, Keim paints and acoustic fabric made of nettles result in lower particulates and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which supports wellbeing and a user-friendly internal environment.
Efficient and cost-effective construction
The project has been delivered by Kier Construction in a highly efficient and cost-effective one-year programme, made possible through lessons learned on a shared legacy of Passivhaus performance buildings by Architype, Keir and engineers Price & Myers and E3. The team adopted an innovative strategy of high quality concrete and timber construction, with Larson truss timber infill panels and timber fins for brise soleil shading to prevent overheating, and concrete regulating thermal mass. Materials were chosen for their structural, durable and carbon-sequestering qualities. Robust materials mean that building maintenance is lower than conventional buildings, and replacements and repairs are fewer.
Architype adopted and developed the original design to simplify form and allow for greater landscaping, which supports biodiversity. Flowering plants provide habitats for insects and nectar for bees, with links to the existing planting along Pippin Street to extend the green corridor. The scheme includes space for healthy and low-carbon transport to work, including 22 covered cycle parking spaces with showers, changing facilities and lockers for cyclists.
Putting trust in Architype and their focus on natural materials and finishes has had unexpected benefits..... it is only when walking into the building and feeling the created environment that the true sense of the correlation between building and atmosphere can be appreciated. The building is imbued with a calmness and positivity that has a tangible impact on individuals.
It is commendable that it fulfils its function as an office workspace without being complicated to use or understand... The enthusiasm of the building’s operation manager for the building, its ease of use, minimal running costs and general wellbeing felt by the occupants cannot be ignored.
- Structural Engineer
- Price & Myers
- Mechanical & Electrical Engineer
- Landscape Architects
- Churchman Landscape Architects
- Kier Construction
- Jack Hobhouse
- RIBA South Award 2021
- RIBA South Sustainability Award 2021
- British Council of Offices / BCO South of England and South Wales Award 2022 for projects up to 1,500m2
- Passivhaus Plus
- Energy Performance Certificate: A+ (-18).