Rehau helps thermal mass deliver comfort for new buildings at Northampton University

Published:  05 September, 2017

The thermal mass of new teaching buildings at the University of Northampton’s new £330 million Waterside Campus will play a key role in achieve comfort conditions through the incorporation of Rehau’s TABS (thermally activated building structure) system into the concrete floor slabs. The TABS cooling and heating system uses the large thermal mass of concrete in a building’s structure to adjust the environment inside the building during the day.

The project will transform a 58-acre brownfield site along the River Nene into a hub for teaching and student accommodation, as well as leisure and retail facilities for the university and wider community. The whole project is set to achieve a BREEAM ‘Excellent” rating on completion in 2018, so every aspect of the design has been carefully considered to ensure it adheres to the principles of sustainable design.

The TABS system circulates heated or chilled water through a network of pipes embedded in the concrete slabs and can be used in virtually any concrete structure. High-profile installations in the UK include Tate Modern and the University of Leicester.

Paul Stroud of Amroc, Rehau’s approved contractor partner, explains, ‘The installation and running costs for TABS are comparatively low, and it offers a more comfortable, even heating and cooling of the teaching spaces with no draughts, like traditional air conditioning.

The system for this project uses about 40 000 m of 20 mm Rautherm polymer piping installed inside steel grids in the floors of the building and tested by Amroc engineers before being covered with concrete. The floors of the 5-storey teaching building are so large that the pipework was laid in eight or more zones, with concrete poured four times per floor to cover the required surface area.

The pipework was connected using Rehau’s Everloc compression-joint sleeves to give a permanent seal without O ranges. When embedded in concrete, it is imperative that joints do not leak; to date, over 850 million Everloc joints have been installed, with no reported leaks.

The TABS installation has been completed and was the first TABS project for Amroc, which was impressed by how straightforward the process was. The company had previously used Rehau pipes and Everloc joints for underfloor heating projects.

Paul Stroud comments, ‘I think the most challenging part of the job was probably being involved so early in the project. As there were no internal walls constructed, we had to rely heavily on datum points and grid lines to ensure not only that the pipework was installed in the correct zones back to the manifold but also to ensure we stayed out of any exclusion zones, avoiding damage to our pipework later on during the development and fit-out.’

TABS is suitable for a range of applications — including offices, hospitals, retail, museums and galleries, transport hubs and sports centres and arenas.

For more information on this story, click here: Sept 2017, 127

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