Belfast Telegraph

The £1.2m green 'test lab' winning awards before it has even opened

By Linda Stewart

This is the incredible £1.2m building dedicated to researching green technologies - and practising what it preaches.

It hasn't even opened its doors to the public yet and already the groundbreaking CREST centre in Enniskillen has won its first green award, with architect Paul McAlister scooping the Sustainable Building Project of the Year accolade at the Sustainable Ireland awards.

CREST is the first commercial passive building in Northern Ireland - designed to be ultra energy efficient to reduce its ecological footprint as much as possible.

"It's certainly the most complicated building we have ever designed or executed," Paul said. "We had 11 different people in the design team, such was the nature of the task. It was a very challenging task, but we're very proud of the end product."

CREST - the Centre for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technologies - is made up of three areas: the hub, the research and development lab and the pavilion. The hub and lab have been integrated into the existing skills centre, while the pavilion is a new development.

The team designed the building in accordance with the six principles of passive house design - superinsulation; triple-glazing; air tightness; mechanical ventilation and heat recovery; minimised thermal bridging and orientation for passive solar gain.

During the design process they even created a thermal model, allowing the design to be modified and tested.

The pavilion was built on a brown field site using low environmental impact materials. It is heated with an air source heat pump and lit with low energy LED lighting powered by PV panels.

Daylight sensors and automatic controls regulate lighting, while rainwater is collected from the roof and recycled to flush the toilets. Meanwhile, the largest area of glazing faces south, allowing heat from the sun to pour into the building.

Project engineer Sean MacDiarmada of electrical consultants Cuillan Engineering Ltd said: "The important thing was to ensure that the building was importing a lot more than it was exporting, and on paper at least it appears that we've achieved that goal, with three times as much energy going in than coming out."

Sean McCarron, contracts manager at building contractors PJ Treacy and Sons, said: "We live in an age of increasing demand for sustainable buildings and, as proven by the CREST pavilion, we can certainly play our part in meeting this demand to exacting standards."


The team was asked to design a sustainable technology facility to benefit future generations via the technologies designed and tested within. CREST aimed to achieve three credentials: Passive house certified for energy efficient envelope and ventilation system; BREEAM excellence (BREEAM is leading environmental assessment method and rating system for buildings), and zero carbon, using renewable energy to provide its own source of heat and lighting.

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