Red Kite House - a Sustainable Build: A Case Study

Red Kite House in Oxfordshire is a shining example of a new build project which ticks all the boxes when it comes to environmental awareness.

The building, home to a regional office of the Environment Agency, replaced eight smaller offices in different areas so it immediately had a positive impact on agency travel costs and emissions.

The agency wanted to create a flagship for sustainable build and set out to build a three-storey building which would be worthy of a BREEAM “excellent” rating.

Award Winning Project

The building in Wallingford has since gone on to win a number of architectural awards as well as a prestigious National Energy Efficiency Award and has hosted a number of environmental and sustainable-build events.

The idea was to create a building that would be in harmony with the environment and provide a pleasant workplace for its 250 staff while achieving major energy savings.

Red Kite House uses natural ventilation rather than air conditioning while an efficient rainwater collection system provides 40 per cent of the building’s water needs. Any extra water above requirements is redirected to a nearby pond.

Solar Panels

Photo voltaic cells generate 23,000 kWh of power per year and the building has rooftop solar hot water panels which supplement its water heating.

When staff were consulted at the planning and development stages, many said they wanted fresh air and windows that would open. Following this, natural ventilation became one of the main design features.

The building’s curved-shape is designed to capture the wind and achieve greater airflow to help with cooling during hot weather. The glazing and blinds were also chosen to help keep the interior cool when needed.

During the day, high concrete ceilings act as heat sinks and these are cooled at night by high-level automatic windows.

Lower Carbon Emissions

Thanks to its energy generation and energy saving devices, the building uses about half the energy consumed by an air-conditioned office, reducing carbon emissions by more than 17 tonnes per year.

This has allowed it to cut its power from the national grid by 33,500 kWh per year and its rainwater system reduces the mains water needed by around 240,000 litres.

In fact, enough rainwater is harvested every year to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool and this is used for all toilet flushing.

The Construction

The building has a steel frame with rainscreen tiling, natural slate and cladded walls. It also has a brise soleil (a type of louvred sunscreen which shades windows from the sun). As well as reducing solar gain, this adds to the appearance of a building and at Red Kite House it includes 200m2 of photo voltaic cells.

All domestic appliances in the building have an A or AA rating for energy use and meter readings for gas, electricity and water are taken on a weekly basis and recorded against targets set as part of the agency’s ISO14001 and EMAS certification.

The results are analysed and discussed at management team meetings both at area and regional level which allows any problems or shortfalls to be identified and addressed.

Car Parking

Flooding considerations were taken into account at the design stage and measures included constructing the car park with pervious blocks which allow rainwater to soak into the ground.

This means that run off is much reduced and doesn’t contribute to any flooding risks further downstream.

The introduction of desk sharing allowed the agency to occupy a smaller building than it would have otherwise needed and this has resulted in extra savings of around £200,000 per year.

In addition, staff have access to pool bikes and a car sharing system has been set up.