It is regrettable that many council buildings across England and Wales are relatively old and energy inefficient; excluding residential properties that have benefited from double glazing, cavity wall and loft insulation projects, council buildings are not renowned for their eco-friendliness. A council building in South Gloucestershire, however, may just be the exception that proves the rule.
Designed by Stride Treglown and built by Kier Western contractors, the modern-looking building features a design that is as pleasing on the eye as it is friendly to the environment. Last month, the Badminton Road council offices were judged to be the ‘Best Large Commercial Development’ at the prestigious LABC awards ceremony.
LABC judges stated: “The South Gloucestershire Council building in Yate has been developed as a state-of-the-art, sustainable, future-proof facility to improve cost efficiency and reduce the authority’s carbon footprint”.
South Gloucestershire Council’s Deputy Chief Executive, David Perry, added: “The council is committed to achieving the best value for money for South Gloucestershire’s residents and the new offices support this aim. The LABC award is on top of Badminton Road receiving an ‘Excellent’ rating from the internationally-recognised Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM)”. The question that most readers would ask at this point is: what is so special about the new council building?
The answer is that the Badminton Road offices comprise solar panels, natural ventilation, rainwater harvesting and a biomass boiler amongst many other eco-friendly features and facilities.
Whilst the building is expected to save the council up to £1.3 million per year (previously, the authority was based in expensive leased offices), the use of a biomass boiler is just one of numerous energy saving initiatives that are expected to cut carbon emissions.
Biomass boilers are not completely green, however, as the burning of biomass fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in much the same way as the burning of fossil fuels does. The important distinction between fossil fuel and biomass boilers in an environmental context is that the former releases greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that have been trapped inside the Earth for thousands or millions of years, whereas biomass is part of the present carbon cycle (via plants and trees).