UK's first 'Energy Autonomous' building for Dundee

    Press/Media: Teaching


    Students and academics at the University of Dundee have embarked on an ambitious project to design and build the UK's first entirely energy autonomous building within the city's Botanic Garden.

    The 'energy autonomous' building will advance and elevate building standards by delivering new concepts in the design and quality of living spaces, ultra-low energy technologies and the sustainable use of material resources. Once the building is complete, students will use it as a workspace while also measuring its energy efficiency.

    The project is at the Building Warrant stage and information about it will form an exhibition at Dundee House, the headquarters of Dundee City Council, from Thursday July 5th.

    Architecture, Renewable Energy and Engineering students have been tasked with designing and building the ultra-low energy studio for living and working as part of their courses at the University of Dundee.

    "The project is designed to give students experience of designing and building a full-size, cutting-edge, ultra-low energy building which will provide new solutions to future problems that have broad relevance across the building industry," said Joseph Thurrott, who is leading the project along with his colleague Dr Neil Burford in the School of Architecture at Dundee.

    "Students have been faced with a particularly challenging problem involving a very steep learning curve. The work they have already done has been recognised by industry as solving new and non-traditional problems in innovative and creative ways and, as a measure of the value of that work, the response from construction, professional and research sectors has been considerable. To date over £100,000 of in-kind contributions has been obtained to enable the project."

    The design and development of the project has involved students' engagement across a wide spectrum of stakeholders in the building industry from professional engineering consultancy, statutory consents for Planning and Building Control, manufacturers and suppliers.

    The project will demonstrate ways in which innovative design integrating new and emerging technologies can have relevance to the wider Scottish construction sector. The aim is to provide alternative solutions that address the future stringent environmental legislation that will govern the energy efficiency of buildings.

    The prototype studio will demonstrate energy autonomy in a fully functioning live/work space by -

    • delivering an alternative spatial and technical concept for an ultra low-energy live/work studio that meets the needs of the Scottish industry while addressing the broader requirements of the Scottish context;
    • providing innovation in the design and quality of the living spaces, ultra-low energy technologies and the sustainable use of material resources;
    • using Scottish manufactured small-element, cross-laminated timber panels - a particularly innovative aspect of the design that makes use of Scottish-grown timber in a new, commercially viable structural product;
    • forging new collaborations between design professionals, research and industry;
    • generating new knowledge in the field of low energy building using design-based research to develop a market-applicable solution to the problem.

    "These are all issues which have major implications for the future of the construction industry in Scotland, which has to respond to new legislation relating to sustainability and energy efficiency," said Dr Neil Burford.

    "This project will demonstrate the innovative design solutions, manufacturing processes and sustainable resources that can be used to meet the future challenges facing the construction and housing sectors.

    "One example of that is the use of Scottish timber resources, as opposed to importing these from places like Canada and Scandinavia. We have been working with the Wood Studio at Napier University and with the Forestry Commission on how we can make good use of sustainable Scottish solutions."

    The project has already attracted support from a number of companies. Among them are:

    • Fife company Nordan Windows, who are supplying ultra-low energy windows
    • Renewable Resources Energy Solutions, supplying photovoltaic panels
    • CULLEN are providing their innovative space stud construction system
    • PAUL Heat Recovery are contributing a high efficiency heat recovery ventilation unit
    • Kingspan are supplying high performance insulation products
    • CUPA Slate are delivering the external cladding
    • ProPump Engineering Ltd are installing an innovative foamed concrete foundation
    • professional engineering consultancy being provided by Buro Happold Engineers.

    "We are dependent to a large extent on industry support for this project, so we are extremely grateful to all the companies that have pledged their support," said Dr Burford. "We are looking to involve more companies in a project that we think can have great benefit to Scotland."

    As the construction is being undertaken on a very limited budget, industry support of this order is crucial to the project's success and it is through consultation, technical information and in-kind contributions such as material and product sponsorship by manufacturers that it will be successfully delivered. If you would like to be involved or contribute to the project, further information and an update on the progress of the studio's design can be found by visiting the blog and website at: and

    Period3 Jul 2012

    Media coverage


    Media coverage

    • TitleUK's first 'Energy Autonomous' building for Dundee
      PersonsNeil Burford, Joseph Thurrott