The Spark is a contemporary teaching and events building on Southampton Solent University’s East Park Terrace campus. This new building features a full-height atrium that incorporates an eye-catching 20m spherical teaching pod. Floating above the atrium, this pod houses one of three lecture theatres. In addition to providing 40 seminar and lecture teaching spaces, The Spark also offers conferencing and catering facilities, all with integrated digital technology.
Arup was the building services engineer for The Spark’s design and build phase as well as providing energy modelling and lighting design services. Our team focused on energy-efficient systems, working closely with architect Scott Brownrigg and contractor Interserve.
Detailed energy modelling to inform the university’s estate team about the building’s forecast energy consumption was also undertaken. This involved extensive modelling of the thermal performance of the atrium in order to demonstrate that this space could comfortably accommodate 400 people using passive ventilation alone. By deploying passive ventilation, the building’s energy demand and associated operational costs have been minimised.
36screen atrium videowall
Arup’s team proposed a series of mechanical, electrical and public health engineering solutions that together were designed to deliver significant operational carbon reductions. This work was instrumental in securing The Sparks’s BREEAM Excellent certification. One of these solutions was the specification of a reversible air source heat pump as the building’s primary source of heating and cooling. This system yields additional efficiencies when it is integrated with a low temperature heating system.
Another feature of the Spark’s MEP design are rooftop photovoltaic (PV) panels, which were designed to generate approximately 56,000kWh of electricity per year. The decision to incorporate solar PV was driven by a need to minimise the electrical load that the new building would add to the university’s existing grid demands.
Our focus on maximising the sustainability of The Spark's design included a careful review of the project's employer’s requirements and a proposed list of further enhancements. These included the use of chilled beams in all teaching rooms in lieu of fan coil units. This improved the aesthetic of the spaces as well as their acoustic performance and energy efficiency whilst simultaneously reducing maintenance requirements.
Arup’s design also incorporated demand-controlled ventilation for all teaching spaces in order to encourage reduced energy demand from fan, heating and cooling. This approach allows building occupants and managers to switch off use when a space is not occupied. Meanwhile, underfloor heating was chosen for the atrium in lieu of trench heaters. This both improves comfort and eliminates the ongoing maintenance requirements typically associated with cleaning trenches in buildings subject to heavy use.
Arup’s lighting design team developed a high-performance thematic lighting design for the Spark’s atrium. This delivers a clean façade, free of protruding lighting fixtures. This was an important achievement in part because adopting a standard lighting approach could have posed a health and safety risk, given the ceiling’s 20m height. Our low-maintenance solution provides energy-efficient lighting with appropriate lux levels and high levels of safety.