De Montfort University Queens Building

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De Montfort University Queens Building

Queens Building, October 2006

Roderic Bunn revisits De Montfort University’s Queens Building, an award-winning project considered a trailblazer of passive solar design. How is it performing a decade on?

Completed in late 1993, the Queens Building at De Montfort University was lauded at the time for being the first in a new generation of low energy, naturally ventilated buildings. In 1996, it was subject to a post-occupancy analysis under the PROBE project. Ten years later, BSRIA has returned to see how the Queens Building has fared since the PROBE investigation.

Design description and history

The original brief for the Queens Building called for innovative solutions that would reflect the creative nature of the then-new university. The architects were Short-Ford Associates and environmental engineers Max Fordham LLP, backed-up by a team of advisers, such as Cambridge Architectural Research on the stack-effect chimneys, and Bristol University on the physics of airflow.

The result was a highly insulated, thermally-massive envelope with mostly shallow-plan floor plates and generous ceiling heights. The 10 000 m2 building is L-shaped, with the south-facing wing comprising a full-height engineering laboratory, and a four-storey east wing containing a complex arrangement of laboratories, classrooms and offices. The wing is separated by a long, winding lightwell that connects to two auditoriums.

The building is almost exclusively naturally ventilated: cross-ventilation for the narrow wings, and chimney stack-assisted for the main building. The top floors are ventilated by motorised ridge windows.