British Construction Industry Awards 2011 – Merton's Acacia Centre

The Acacia Centre, Merton, was shortlisted for the British Construction Industry Awards which took place at Grosvenor House Hotel on 12 October 2011. This innovative building, designed by Curl La Tourelle for the Merton Council, employs Interseasonal Heat Transfer to provide heating in winter and cooling in summer to this light weight building by heat exchanging with ThermalBanks in the ground.

The project was completed on time to a tight budget and enjoys a low carbon footprint and a high user satisfaction.

The principal aim of the British Construction Industry Awards

The principal aim of the BCI Awards is to recognise excellence in its broadest sense – the overall design, construction and delivery of buildings and civil engineering projects.

In assessing projects for the Shortlisting and Final phases of the Awards, the judges take particular note of:

  • Client satisfaction, value for money, performance against prediction, procurement, the quality of design and construction, safety, and application of quality management.

The judges also consider other elements, depending on their relevance to the type and size of the project. These include:

  • Concept: fitness for purpose, originality, application of research findings, benefit to the community, life cycle costs
  • Design and Planning: efficient use of materials and labour, appropriate standardisation, energy saving, appearance and environmental harmony, pre-planning, selection and involvement of sub-contractors, predictability of time and productivity, team building, value engineering, innovation, sustainability.
  • Construction: teamwork, enterprise and ingenuity; workmanship; economy; application of R&D findings.

Acacia Centre, Merton, shortlisted for British Construction Industry Awards 2011

Merton was awarded £1.5 million by the London Development Agency which, along with other funding, enabled it to build the UK’s first purpose-built Intergenerational Centre. Work began to clear the site – a disused youth centre and motorbike track situated next to Lonesome Primary School and St Mark’s Academy in Eastfields, Mitcham – in June 2009. The Acacia Centre, which opened early in 2010, is designed to bring together different generations, young and old, as individuals, groups and families. The Acacia Centre aims to help break down stereotypes and barriers, and complement the new Children’s Centre and daycare provision all operating under one roof.

Services include family support and promotion of healthy lifestyles as well as mentoring and mediation. The IGC offers a children’s centre, crèche, a hall, meeting and office spaces, catering facilities, arts spaces, social spaces, gardens and Merton's largest adventure playground, which opened in summer 2010.

Merton's Acacia Intergenerational Centre

Merton's Acacia Intergenerational Centre

Dean la Tourelle of Curl la Tourelle Architects was excited to be working on the UK's first Intergenerational Centre. The Acacia Centre offers facilities and training for young and old. Its range of programmes is aimed at breaking down barriers between different groups in the community. The explicit intention was to work across generations to increase mutual understanding and social cohesion, and to develop a greater sense of community spirit and reduce crime. Despite the inclusion of innovations in constuction the project was finished on time.

Curl la Tourelle are architects who specialize in architecture for education, housing, community and leisure. They "enjoy defining and solving problems".

While Curl la Tourelle are always "concerned about the impact that buildings have on the world's resources and work to ensure that sustainability issues inform functional, aesthetic and construction decisions", there was a particular need to demonstrate this in working for the Merton Council. Merton has made a point of leading the field in requiring new buildings in its borough to incorporate on site renewable energy for at least 10% of predicted energy requirements: The Merton Rule. The original Merton Rule has been much copied by other boroughs, strengthened by requirement of more than 20% of On Site Renewable Energy and the spirit of it is now incorporated in the UK government's target of Zero Carbon Schools by 2016.

Initially the architects looked at the standard biomass boiler "tick-the-box" response to providing on site renewable energy. The costs of this "inelegant" solution grew as they allowed for storage facilities for the woodchip fuel, provision of space for delivering fuel to the site and the practicalities of managing a biomass boiler installation. A review of the energy requirements for the well-insulated building pointed to the need for cooling in summer – which the biomass boiler would not have been able to provide.

Search for an alternative to a Biomass Boiler

The architects searched for alternative means of meeting The Merton Rule in conjunction with their M&E advisors, Halcrow Yolles, and contacted ICAX Ltd. ICAX were able to offer Interseasonal Heat Transfer which would meet the heating loads of the building in winter largely from heat energy extracted from the building in summer – by means of storing surplus summer heat in ThermalBanks until it was needed for heating in winter.

An examination of the costs involved showed that the ICAX proposal was less expensive than the provision of a separate biomass heating system and an electrically powered air cooling system. It also took up less space and saved the cost of constructing a special building to house the fuel supply for the biomass boiler.

Further analysis showed that the annual running cost of the IHT system would be less than the cost of running biomass heating in winter, electrical cooling in summer and gas heating for hot water in summer.

Boris Johnson at Merton's Intergenerational Centre

Boris Johnson visits Merton's Acacia Intergenerational Centre

Interseasonal Heat Transfer

A final analysis was required to calculate the Carbon Offsets in comparison to the carbon emitted by the standard solution of using a gas boiler for heating. Both the ICAX proposal and the system incorporating a biomass boiler showed that it was possible to provide over 40% of on site renewable energy to Merton's Intergenerational Centre.

The architects decided to go for the "elegant" solution in which one integrated system from ICAX could provide both heating in winter and cooling in summer (as well as hot water all year round and the freedom not to have to organise, feed and manage a biomass boiler).

British Construction Industry Awards 2011

The Acacia Centre, Merton, has been shortlisted for the British Construction Industry Awards which take place at the Grosvenor House Hotel on 12 October 2011.

ICAX Projects:

Toddington | Howe Dell | Hiroshima | HMP Garth | Merton IGC | Suffolk One | Tesco | Wellington

Renewable Heat Incentive

The Merton IGC is expected to benefit from a cashback of 4.5 pence per kilowatt hour of renewable heat used from the Renewable Heat Incentive. A "Very Good" BREEAM score was awarded to the Acacia Intergenerational Centre.