Built for St John's College and located within its Innovation Park in the north of Cambridge, this three-storey 4000m2 floor area block has been the headquarters of
Ionica, a telecommunications company, since it took up occupancy in October 1994.
Design architect for the project was David Emond. A graduate of the Sheffield University School of Architecture with several years of experience in commercial and other projects with different London practices, he joined the Cambridge-based RH Partnership in 1992 at the start of the Ionica project (Emond, 1998). Guy Battle of Battle McCarthy provided environmental consulting. A building services engineering graduate of the Bath School, from the era when architects, structural engineers and building services engineers followed an integrated learning programme, Battle had worked for Ove Arups for some years before forming a partnership with structural engineer Chris McCarthy (Battle, 1998).
Ionica wanted 'a high-quality working environment, including the ability for individual users to control their own workspaces.. .not a hermetically sealed air-conditioned box; we wanted to open the windows' (Lindsey, 1994). The designers' response was to provide a predominantly naturally lit and naturally ventilated building with significant thermal mass, together with a modest mechanical ventilation system with air distribution via the hollow-core floor slab.
The thermal environmental control strategies are expressed in several ways. First, by the overall form and orientation of the building with its long axis east-west, and the clear differentiation of the north- and south-facing façades from each other (Figure 3.35)—the former with its masonry walls and limited glazing, the latter with its glazed curtain wall and extensive sunshading (Plate 2)—and their differentiation from the solid east and west façades behind which the main service spaces are located (Figure 3.35). Second, the elongated central lightwell— 'not an atrium so much as a means of getting diffused light [fixed louvres below the glazing prevent sun penetration] down to the office levels below' (Emond, 1998). Third, the lightwell acts as the route for air movement to the six rooftop wind towers (Plate 2) where the air is exhausted from the building. These distinctive features (Figure 3.36), claimed to be one of the first applications of wind towers in Europe (Battle, 1994), are designed to be omnidirectional.Their alignment along the
3.35 Ionica Headquarters, Cambridge—view from the west; predominantly masonry north façade to the left, predominantly glazed south façade to the right.
3.36 Ionica Headquarters, Cambridge—closer view of a couple of wind towers. Note also the glazing of the sections of the lightwell between them.
curve of the lightwell reduces the likelihood of wake interference and the results of extensive wind tunnel testing (at the University of Bristol) has informed their operation under different wind conditions.
Subsequent monitoring (DETR, 2000) has indicated energy consumption less than typical for a building of this type; but more than predicted as a result mainly of the building not being run as originally intended.
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