Manchester city council greenlights low-carbon robotics living lab pavilion for Manchester Fashion Institute

Manchester city council greenlights low-carbon robotics living lab pavilion for Manchester Fashion Institute

Manchester City Council has approved plans for the construction of a low-carbon, timber and straw pavilion for the Robotics Living Lab at Manchester Fashion Institute, Manchester Metropolitan University, designed by Bennetts Associates.

The design, a single-storey timber framed building, will provide an adaptable workspace and exhibition and events space for the Robotics Living Lab to promote and showcase its work and research. The ‘Work in Progress’ pavilion forms the second phase of the AHRC funded project, a new fashion research facility to help develop and support micro-scale fashion businesses using robotic technologies for more sustainable production.

An exemplar project, the new pavilion echoes the Manchester Metropolitan University, and Manchester Fashion Institute’s vision, pushing low carbon design and follows targets set in line with the University’s Leadership in Sustainability strategy working towards a zero-carbon future, and Greater Manchester’s Zero Carbon Manchester 2038 plan.

The building incorporates biogenic and regenerative materials that capture carbon in their production or life cycle. The use of a UK Douglas fir timber frame, which is a native material, significantly reduces upfront carbon, even compared to typical glulam construction, while straw insulated wall panels lock away carbon captured within a much shorter timescale than traditional sequestering materials. The timber frame forms an expressive waffle soffit structure that is left exposed, providing warmth and character to the internal space.

By following modern methods of manufacturing, Bennetts Associates has ensured that the building will maximise off-site manufacturing before being assembled on site. A clear structural hierarchy and panelised material finishes help express the kit of parts that make up the building. This strategy also enables the building to be disassembled, allowing the majority of the materials and components to be reused in the future, adopting principles of the circular economy in line with the ambitions of Manchester Fashion Institute.

This approach to the design has resulted in an upfront carbon figure of 364 kgCO2e/m2 A1-A5, the full breakdown of which is available to download here. This is equivalent to a LETI B rating for offices and comes close to the LETI 2030 Design Target. These upfront figures cover the production and construction of the building up to the point of use. The operation of the building has been designed to maximise the use of passive control systems including natural ventilation and use radiant heating and cooling to reduce the need for upfront carbon associated with services.

Designed to create an attractive and appealing space for the Robotics Living Lab, materiality and texture is used to create an attractive building envelope with minimal materials including black, shou-sugi-ban charred timber cladding and soft, green planting to contrast the warm timber interior.

Susan Postlethwaite, Professor of Fashion Technologies at MFI and Director of the Robotics Living Lab said, “I am delighted to be working with Bennetts Associates to develop a low carbon design for the ‘work in progress’ space. This beautiful structure will help support us in showcasing and draw attention to the important work of RoLL as part of the AHRC funded CResCa World Class Lab which will help develop sustainable and local fashion manufacturing skills for Manchester and the region.”

Sam Gills, architect at Bennetts Associates said, “The pavilion meets the Manchester Metropolitan University’s climate commitments entirely, embedding circularity and low carbon design whilst also acting as a landmark space on the All Saints campus for fashion designers and manufacturers.”

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