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Net Zero Lab

Next Generation Infrastructure project at the John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park.

We have produced a report examining the opportunities and constraints to deliver a net zero carbon lab for the Next Generation Infrastructure project at the John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park. The report investigates the content and context of the zero-carbon agenda and how present standards of measurement could be applied to all elements of the project, taking account of the embodied and operational carbon impacts.


With an emphasis on building solutions, additional technologies and local on-site schemes to achieve the zero carbon target, we have adapted the output as a repository of product performance and information; a library of low carbon approaches, materials and processes which can be applied to other BDP projects and processes. We started by breaking down the proposals to review the specification of each element for low carbon alternatives. Quantitative and qualitative assessments were undertaken to determine the feasibility of their implementation, including carbon impact, cost change, longevity and impact on science. We adopted an optimised structural approach to the superstructure with a fully timber solution for the office areas and hybrid timber and concrete frame for the labs, offering a significant reduction in embodied carbon while meeting the specification vibration requirements for a laboratory. Our investigations, together with market testing to determine cost uplifts, have led us to develop a library of low carbon materials to share across the practice. Façade materials have a big impact on the embodied carbon in a building, so by using timber we can lock up the sequestered carbon in the growing of the trees and have a carbon negative façade design.

Operational carbon has been reduced by using the most efficient electrical systems and a move away from gas on the site. This step change reduces the operational carbon of the facilities by more than 75% from their current levels. Together with these low energy systems, detailed reviews of energy intensive specialist areas, such as the glasshouse, have been undertaken to gain a detailed understanding of the needs of the client, minimise energy use and ensure future flexibility.