Sensing & Communicating AIR

The Academy for Innovation & Research @ Falmouth University

The 1,200m2 AIR (the Academy for Innovation & Research) building at Falmouth University is the new home for PhD students, research and business collaboration. BDP’s Bristol Office designed the building while Leadbitter managed construction with St. Ives based project architect Poynton Bradbury Wynter Cole. The £9 million project is supported by the European Regional Development Fund.


The AIR building has been designed to achieve a BREEAM (BREEnvironmental Assessment Method) Excellent rating, the second highest, below Outstanding. BREEAM is one of the main international standards for the design and assessment of sustainable buildings, and the one primarily adopted in the UK.

A condition of the BREEAM Excellent rating is that an In-Use assessment is performed within the first 3 years (and at subsequent intervals) to certify that the operation of the building is delivering on the criteria of the initial design rating. BREEAM ratings (at design and construction) are calculated by the credits awarded to a number of scorecard issues (criteria). For a BREEAM Excellent rating these criteria are:

Sustainable Procurement
Responsible Construction Practices
Stakeholder Participation
Visual Comfort
Water Quality
Reduction of CO2 Emissions
Energy Monitoring
Low or Zero Carbon Technologies
Water Consumption
Water Monitoring
Responsible Sourcing
Construction Waste Management
Operational Waste
Mitigating Ecological Impact

Clearly, some of these criteria relate only to the development and construction phase (e.g. Responsible Construction Practices) and are not examined as a factor of subsequent In-Use assessments. Of the criteria that are reviewed at the In-Use assessments, some of these are monitored and displayed (e.g. Energy Monitoring using the Building Management System) while others are not normally the subject of continuous monitoring e.g. Visual Comfort.

Sensing & Communicating AIR – Research Programme

Besides the potential to better understand the environmental aspects of sustainability the Sensing & Communicating AIR project (as a component of the PhD research) will look to examine the greater aspects of holistic sustainability; the interactions of social, business and environmental sustainability as measured and calculated operating parameters of AIR.

Typically, the environmental data collected by the Building Management System is processed and provided only – with the exception of basic utility consumption displays – to allocated individuals in the services organisation; TCS (Tremough Campus Services) in the case of the AIR building. An objective of the sustainability outcome of this proposal – and a component of the PhD research – will be to better understand how processed real-time information about the operation of the building can be delivered to the users
of the building. The rationale will be to investigate how such information e.g. as persuasive prompts providing an insight to sustainability, can be employed to improve the overall environmental and sustainable operation of the building. The potential for continuous improvement of the environmental footprint of the building, beyond the expectations of the initial BREEAM rating, would be a goal.

Building Management Systems also tend to remove the possibility for the independent or moderated input of the actual users in the operation of the buildings environmental parameters, leaving this primarily to the parameters that have been programmed into the Building Management System. Part of the PhD research will investigate how the provision of personal, group or area input devices within the building can lead to a better understanding of both the individual and moderated real-time needs of users vs. the preconditioned logic of the environment as managed by the Building Management System.

The availability of rich operational data, beyond pure environmental data, will provide for examination of the greater (holistic) sustainability of AIR. The potential to define and investigate new and conceptual parameters of sustainability e.g. Creative Activity per KWh/m2.

Collaboratory: projects with UCF and external artists will rethink how buildings communicate with their users, employing art as a form of mediation at the interface between man and the built environment.  Art interfaces may include 2D/3D Visuals, Soundworks, Kinetic Sculptures, Smart Textiles or even Animatronics. The art forms will be dynamic, driven by information about the environment of the building, and will explore new methods for a dialogue about themes such as energy conservation, productivity in innovation, and shared environment happiness.


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