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One of the first buildings allegedly built to the new Part L standards has started on site in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Located on the old Warner Bros cinema car park site, alongside the motorway, the new law, business and design schools for Northumbria University have been designed by Atkins in Leeds.

The scheme comprises two banana-shaped elements with stair pods at either end; the law and business schools are housed in the convex, or bow-shaped, building to the west and the design facility to the east, so that the central courtyard and the split between the two departments runs directly north-south.

Within the central area, several Gehry-esque lecture theatres intrude into the space before a more linear elevational treatment takes over at the third floor.

The outer facades of both buildings, up to the first and second floors, have double-glazed, aluminium-framed curtain walling (although the east elevation is truncated by the existing road level that runs at first-floor level), while the third and fourth floors have mesh to the east and west elevations.

This custom-built stainless-steel mesh stands proud of the building.

It accommodates a maintenance walkway behind, providing a 50 per cent shading coefficient for the building.

Designed with a dramatic convex and concave swoop, the three-dimensional curvature of the mesh array is intended to provide a more cost-effective alternative to an active brise-soleil (one which intelligently tracks the sun's movement and alters its angle to deal most efficiently with solar gain). In this way, the exterior solar shading anticipates the passage of the sun and this explains why it - again, more cost effective than aerofoil sections - has been laid at staggered angles and various pitches. It also extends 1m above roof level to protect the upper-level plant room.

Around the south elevation, approximately 1,800m 2 of 58mm-diameter anodised aluminium solar evacuated tubes provided the same solar-shading coefficient as the mesh. These tubes, which span between 2m and 4m, provide solar heating and it is intended that this will be the largest evacuated-tube solar array in Europe, providing up to 340,000kWh of useful energy.

Faber Maunsell has calculated that this equates to around £8,700 in gas-equivalent costs (calculated when gas was 2.5p per unit).

It is assumed that compliance with Approved Document Part L2A will add an additional £19 per m 2 onto the nominal gross internal floor area rates for the scheme. This figure weighs up the extra costs of mesh, structural supports, etc against the cost savings in terms of the reduced-specification air-conditioning, heating and elevational treatment (higher spec cladding is unnecessary because it is hidden from view).

The project, which started on site in November, was monitored throughout the course of its design development by an internal client sustainability steering group, where each material choice had to be justified in terms of sustainability indices. Not only that, it seems that there was a Disability Discrimination Act, health and safety and security steering group as well. The building is due for completion in July 2007.

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