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The University of East Anglia’s new Enterprise Centre makes large scale use of thatch as a carbon reduction measure, Mark Smulian reports


A


is one approaches the University of East Anglia’s new 3,400 square metres Enterprise Centre, its surface presents something of puzzle.


Is the cladding wood, a light brown brick, or a straw colour


painted on something? In fact its thatch, from possibly the largest single job the


thatching industry can have had in modern times. The thatch acts as a rain screen on a building designed to


meet both Passivhaus and BREEAM ‘outstanding’ criteria for energy efficiency. UEA wanted a building that was both low carbon and made


use of locally sourced materials, and East Anglia has plenty of reeds and a busy thatching industry, though it usually works on domestic projects.


It was a chance meeting in a pub that led to the project


supporting an entirely new industrial thatch process. The £11.6m Enterprise Centre will house small and


start-up business that need to work with the university’s academic staff and is near to, but not on, the noted 1960s modernist campus. Its designer Ben Humphries, of architectural practice


Architype, takes up the story: “The building needed to be exemplary for low carbon and to use locally sourced materials, so this led us to study what was available that was renewable and with low embodied carbon. “We thought it would be great to do a contemporary take


on thatch. It would make an incredible expression of low carbon because the rain screening is often the first thing you


Continued overleaf...


BUILDING PROJECTS


www.architectsdatafile.co.uk


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