A £3.5m Collaborative Learning Centre, funded by Essex County Council, includes a large and small halls, entrance area, theme room, video recording studio, external spaces and workshop classrooms. The centre, a collaborative project providing an invaluable resource filled with technology that children would not normally have at school, boasts hi-tech music, art and IT facilities for use by Wickford’s eleven primary schools, one special school and the local community. It is expected that up to 120 children and teachers will use the facility daily.

Commenting on the project, Kevin Harrison of Stanley Bragg Architects, says: “From the start, an important part of the brief was that it should be as sustainable a building as possible and, working in conjunction with M & E consultants Peter Sharp Associates, many of the original aspirations of the building and its environment were met. A Monodraught natural ventilation strategy was therefore a natural choice in place of traditional opening windows, where noise from outside could be a distraction in spaces dedicated to learning, and similarly, noise from within the building – such as live shows and concerts – could be a nuisance to local residents.”

Monodraught’s system also enabled the centre to comply with a number of noise restrictions placed on the building, especially in specialist spaces where large groups rehearse and develop plays and musical events.

In addition, the original plans to use solar power were changed, so Windcatcher Sola-boost natural ventilation systems provided an opportunity to include solar power into the building specification by a different route. The Sola-boosts have been especially beneficial during the hot weather experienced in June and July 2010, as the long hours of sunshine meant that the solar-powered fans increased the throughput of air at just the right time. Monodraught also provided figures on air changes per hour and other data for the specification, which meant that money was saved because the architects did not need to include trickle ventilation and were able to optimise the number of openable windows.

The building also features highly-sustainable ground-source heat pumps as its main temperature control system and particular attention has been paid to air tightness, both of which complement the Windcatcher Sola-boost natural ventilation strategy, which allows the building to breathe, but can also be fully controlled using its motorised louvre system. The systems also allow fresh air in during autumn / winter when opening windows would not be acceptable to students, teachers or the public.

As the ground-source heat pumps provide both heating and cooling, during larger events where 300 or more people are in one of the spaces, they are used to introduce ‘comfort cooling’ if required.

Centre manager Rachel Voller says: “The natural ventilation system creates a really nice environment and, combined with cooling air provided by the ground-source heat pumps, the spaces never feel ‘clammy’. It is a nice climate for everyone to work in.”

Monodraught installed a total of eight Windcatcher Sola-boosts and supplied its own iNVent natural ventilation controller to monitor temperature and CO2 levels in the seven zones.

Summing up, Voller says: “The Monodraught system has already proved its effectiveness when the centre was used as a conference venue for up to 50 delegates; and hosted a performance of Shakespeare by a local secondary school. We haven’t had any operational problems and are very pleased with it.”

Commenting for Monodraught, Tony Cull says that creating a comfortable learning environment is vital for students and teachers alike, and the addition of Sola-boosts has proved to be an inspired choice for the very hot summer of 2010.