A demonstration by a local master thatcher marked the start of work on the ground-breaking low carbon Enterprise Centre at the University of East Anglia (UEA), part of the Norwich Research Park.
The demonstration, replacing a traditional ‘turf-cutting’, was done by Stephen Letch of the East Anglia Master Thatchers, who will be working on large-scale thatch panels for the building, made from yeoman wheat grown locally in Starston.
The ceremony, presided over by UEA’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Edward Acton, marked the start of visible construction work on the £16 million project and also offered guests a chance to look round the site following a welcome reception and presentations from the project team and UEA’s Adapt Low Carbon Group.
Thatch panels are just one of the many innovative design features which aim to make The Enterprise Centre the first commercial building designed to achieve both Passivhaus and BREEAM Outstanding standards – two of the construction industry’s more prestigious low carbon accolades.
“This project is a first in the UK University and Business sectors,” said Project Director John French.
“As well as further advancing UEA’s low carbon credentials and setting new standards in building concept and design, it will provide leadership and inspiration to businesses and entrepreneurs.”
Half of the 3,300sqm building will provide lettable floor space for SME start-up businesses. By placing academic and commercial users side by side, it will encourage students to interact with businesses and be inspired to start their own enterprises. It is also expected to provide business support to over 600 businesses and create over 250 jobs in the region.
“Designed to address what’s been a historically low level of new businesses in the region, the Enterprise Centre will provide the perfect base for both start-ups and existing SMEs from Norfolk and Suffolk,” said Benedict Binns, programme manager at the Adapt Group’s Centre for the Built Environment.
“At the start of work ceremony, guests will be able to see the benefits of the business support we offer and the future opportunity to join an exciting and vibrant community of low carbon entrepreneurs.