UCEM and Interface

UNIVERSITY College of Estate Management (UCEM) has created one of the most sustainable educational buildings in the UK, with support from modular flooring specialist and sustainability champion, Interface.

The new ‘Horizons’ headquarters in Reading has been carefully renovated to make the space as sustainable as possible. When planning the refurbishment of the space, the institution wanted to transform the building into a BREEAM rated model of construction and refurbishment best practice. This meant not only creating a more resource-efficient space, but sourcing low-impact furnishings and construction materials, as well as recycling and reusing products from the existing building where feasible to minimise waste.

UCEM requested that the design incorporated flooring products supplied by Interface, after being inspired by the organisation’s commitment to sustainable manufacturing.
The focus on minimising waste during the refurbishment was crucial for UCEM to help it in its wider strategic goals.

Through the supported online learning it provides students, the institution is dedicated to teaching best practice to minimise the environmental impact of construction projects. As such, it was crucial for this commitment to be front of mind.

Rob Callaghan, UCEM’s sustainability officer, explained: ‘We train professionals across the construction industry about building sustainably every day. Refurbishing our own offices with this goal in mind helps us to demonstrate to students how even an existing building can be transformed to reduce its impact on the environment.’

 Architect firm, Schema Studio, and project consultants, GVA Acuity, worked together to explore every aspect of the refurbishment to achieve UCEM’s vision. Alongside the central heating and the water and waste management systems, significant consideration was given to the furnishings for the final design scheme.

Schema Studio and GVA Acuity even devised a more sustainable garden space for the exterior of the building, incorporating sparrow boxes and planting flowers to support local wildlife populations.
To meet UCEM’s request to use Interface flooring in the building’s interior, Schema Studios and GVA Acuity selected products from many of the manufacturer’s collections.

Mark von der Heide, director at Schema Studio, said: ‘To reflect UCEM’s corporate brand, we chose a range of tiles in shades of ash, clay and dust from Interface’s Composure, Infuse and Heuga collections, as well as using lime Heuga tiles as an accent colour to complement these.

‘Composure tiles were installed in the main desk areas where staff deliver online lessons, and in the corridors and staircases to help tie everything together.

‘The meeting rooms were distinguished from the rest of the building by fitting products from the Infuse collection that featured a striped pattern. One room was fitted with grey and green two-tone tiles, finished off with a border of lime Heuga tiles around the table. The other featured tiles sporting two shades of grey, with a similar border of pale-grey Heuga flooring.’

As well as helping to reduce the impact of the initial refurbishment, thanks to the recycled materials used in their manufacture, Interface’s flooring will also help UCEM achieve its long-term sustainability vision.
‘One of UCEM’s major requirements when selecting materials for the project was that they ensured the building remained sustainable long after the contractors left,’ said Anna Scally, senior project manager at GVA Acuity.

‘Interface’s products were ideal for helping to achieve this goal. Going forward, individual Composure tiles can be easily removed when worn and replaced with new ones, without the need for fitting an entire floor, keeping waste to a minimum.

‘What’s more, the old tiles can be easily recycled through ReEntry - Interface’s carpet tile takeback scheme - closing the material loop.’

UCEM moved into the newly completed Horizons in July 2016. The refurbished building is said to be so sustainable that it has achieved its aim and been awarded an ‘Excellent’ rating under the BREEAM UK Refurbishment and Fit-Out 2014 Scheme.

Team members are reportedly impressed with the results of the renovation as well, appreciating both the look of the interior scheme and the opportunities it offers to demonstrate best practice to the wider industry.

Rob commented: ‘We’ve had an incredible response from everyone visiting Horizons. The refurbishment has given us a bright, fresh environment that inspires team members, giving them a workplace of which they can really be proud.

‘Most important, as one of the most sustainable education buildings in the UK, the building is a fantastic demonstration of what can be achieved, even with existing properties. Our team members are already using it as a learning tool for trainees, providing them with the knowledge they need to achieve similar success on their own projects in future.’

Tristan Robinson, sales manager at Interface concluded: ‘When refurbishing with sustainability in mind, you don’t just have to think about the fabric of the building itself, you need to consider the environmental impact of the furnishings as well, and the effect of disposing of them at the end of their lives.

‘By choosing products made from recycled materials, and are capable of being effectively recycled, you can ensure the project is truly sustainable, minimising the environmental impact of the newly completed space during its initial construction and afterwards as well.’
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