Building type Civic
Building age post 2000
Location Ipswich
Cost of work £31,000,000
District Ipswich
Features Green Sedum Roof,Rainwater Harvesting,Insulation and Glazing,Ventilation Systems,Climate Adapted

With its unusual curved structure, multi-coloured windows and sloping sedum roof, the UCS Waterfront Building is already a familiar landmark in Ipswich and has come to represent the University’s green policies. UCS’ newest addition, the James Hehir Building, which opened in March 2011, has been built to similar standards and also boasts excellent environmental credentials.

Sustainable features of the buildings include: insulation and glazing, structural concrete designed to act as a ‘thermal battery’; high performance glazing to reduce solar gain; an extensive heat recovery system featuring a heat wheel that uses fresh air circulation so no air conditioning is needed; water saving; climate adaptation, walls and floors designed to withstand flood damage, and a building management system.

The sloping sedum roof, perhaps one of the building’s most instantly recognisable features, helped the building to achieve a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating (the world’s longest established and most widely used environmental assessment method for buildings).

The building has six floors, two main lecture theatres each seating 140 people, 34 teaching rooms seating between 80 and 18 people, and associated staff offices. The ground floor is host to a large reception area with digital screens presenting upcoming lectures and seminars.

Sustainability Features

Green Roof

The large, angled sedum roof, planted with twenty-five different varieties of grass.  It provides excellent insulation and ameliorates the impact of storm water loads on local drainage systems – whilst actively encouraging biodiversity on what was once a bleak brownfield site.

Insulation and Glazing and Ventilation

Solar gain is minimal thanks to reduced areas of glazing to the south- facing facade. Triple-glazed windows with interstitial blinds in the outer cavity provide local glare control and solar gain reduction. High thermal mass provides thermal lag for heat storage and release. Various zoning controls, loads shedding, energy-saving devices, ventilation heat recovery, chilled beams, adiabatic ‘free-cooling’ of fresh air and variable speed motor drives have been deployed. Advanced building management systems control natural ventilation and there is extensive heat recovery from fresh air circulation. Lighting is controlled by occupancy sensors.

Water Saving

Water-saving systems and low-energy hand dryers are installed in washrooms.

Climate Adaptation

There is a flood mitigation system, recognising future contingencies.  No electrical systems are within 900mm of groundlevel, and walls and floors designed to withstand flood damage.

Cycle facilities

Extensive bicycle parking, with showers and changing facilities, to encourage sustainable travel.

Building Management System

Advanced building management system controls variable-speed ventilation and heating systems.


No incandescent lighting (except in the lifts!).  Lighting controlled by occupancy sensors in many areas.


Design Process

The Waterfront Building was designed entirely through consultants, who were given a fairly broad initial brief stipulating that the building had should be a landmark sustainable design.

This has clearly been achieved. Notably, the sloping sedum roof (the twenty degree incline is thought to be unique in the UK) was a response to a requirement that the building height should not exceed that of the existing buildings on waterfront and on Fore Street.




Green Lifestyle

UCS regularly achieves an 85% waste recycling rate.  All UCS waste is sorted, and much is separated at source.  There is also a green procurement policy, which includes using only recycled office paper. In the move to the building from existing facilities, old furniture was either sold or given to charity. Regular sessions on sustainability are run for staff, who can eat alongside students in the Fairtrade catering facility.



The Waterfront building is a good example of what can be done with conventional technology and a limited budget.  Whilst various forms of local power and heating generation were considered, UCS saw effective insulation as a higher priority for the funding available.  Biomass heating and microgeneration systems are being considered for later phases of the University campus development.

Opened in September 2008, the building has been a “quiet success”, according to UCS’s Sustainability Officer, Brian Holder.  The only minor issue has been adjusting the heating system to a comfortable level.


Suppliers and Professional Services Used

Architects: RMJM

Engineers: Aecom

Project Managers and Cost Consultants: Turner and Townsend