The award-winning Active Office is the UK’s first energy positive office

by Joanna Clarke, Head of Design

Constructed in 2018 based on learnings from the Active Classroom, the Active Office further develops the concept of Active Buildings.

Alongside the Active Classroom, the Active Office was designed and delivered by SPECIFIC IKC*. These demonstrators proved the Active Building concept and paved the way for the creation of the Active Building Centre.

The Active Building concept

We designed the Active Office to generate more energy than it uses over the annual cycle.

The building was manufactured using cutting edge off-site manufacturing techniques and incorporate innovative energy generation, storage and release technologies. The office is situated next to the Active Classroom, enabling the sharing of energy and information.

The Active Office is fully monitored with metering on every individual circuit.

The concept of an Active Building operating as an active agent within the energy system is tested on this building through:

  • The use of the 110kWh battery system (which stores electricity generated from the 22kWp building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) roof)
  • A range of different charging points for electric vehicles, including a Vehicle-to-Building (V2B) charger; and the thermal store

These systems enable the building energy system to choose when to discharge energy into the grid and when to utilise the grid supply for charging the electrical and thermal storage devices.

The two Active Buildings share energy with each other and electric vehicles, which demonstrates how Active Buildings can contribute to more efficient energy use and decarbonisation.

Active Buildings data

Data collected from the Active Office will feed into the development of predictive control strategies and performance specifications, supporting the delivery programme for the Active Building Centre.

The data from these buildings will also be used to develop monitoring specifications to enable standard data to be collected from further Active Buildings in a National Active Building Evidence Base (NABEB).

Assessing the monitoring currently in place within the buildings will highlight whether any additional data is needed and how this should be collected, as well as how it is presented. Data captured on the thermal and electrical load profiles of the buildings will contribute to the development of tools, as well as contributing to the development of systems and suppliers for Active Buildings.

Engaging with stakeholders

The Active Office has been used extensively to engage with key stakeholders:

  • Identifying commercial and industrial partnerships
  • Highlighting the research capabilities of the University
  • Engaging with government ministers
  • Educating students.

This engagement has been fundamental in developing the building demonstration pipeline, which will enable Active Buildings to be developed and delivered with partners.

A Whole Life Cost Comparison report has been commissioned to quantify economic benefits of Active Buildings as active agents in the energy system, to help create commercial opportunities. This data is crucial in enabling the focus on construction costs to shift towards the costs of a building across its life cycle, particularly its use of energy.

Proving the Case for Active Buildings

The Active Office is helping the Active Building Centre prove the case for these innovative Active Buildings. Generating data to quantify the benefits of Active Buildings for whole energy system investment models.

These buildings demonstrate the possibilities of providing smart, energy efficient buildings with low emissions, within shorter timescales than the construction industry is used to, contributing to the mission to halve the energy use of new buildings by 2030 set out in the Clean Growth Grand Challenge within the Construction Sector Deal.

Alongside the Active Classroom, the Active Office was delivered through collaboration between SPECIFIC and industry partners. Developing partnerships is understood to be critical to the success of the Sector Deal. The Active Office was mentioned in the Construction Sector Deal as an example of innovation in construction that is already happening and will be built on through the Active Building Centre.

Active Building demonstrators

The Active Building Centre demonstrator programme is vital for this new approach to buildings to be adopted more widely by the construction sector, regulators and consumers.

Whilst the Active Classroom tests technologies at different stages of development, the Active Office only uses commercially available technologies and existing supply chains.

The Active Office demonstrates that the Active Building approach is applicable now – there is no need to wait for new technology to become commercially available.

If you think you have a potential or existing Active Building project, please contact the team at the Active Building Centre.

Ian Campbell, Executive Chair of Innovate UK:

“It’s difficult to overstate the potential of developing a building that powers itself. The concept could genuinely revolutionise not only the construction sector but completely change how we create and use energy, so the opening of the Active Office in Swansea is an exciting step forward. Developing technologies like those demonstrated in the Active Office can play a strong role in the Government’s modern industrial strategy to create ‘clean growth’ and fulfil our mission to halve the emissions of new buildings by 2030.”

*SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre is an academic and industrial consortium led by Swansea University, with strategic partners Akzo Nobel, NSG Pilkington, Tata Steel and Cardiff University.

It is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Innovate UK and the European Regional Development Fund, through the Welsh Government.


Published March 2019