Innovation & Energy Efficiency

A combination of new technologies, innovative methods, common sense, and attention to detail has made ECCI's new building an exemplar of social, economic and environmental sustainability.

The unique building is the first refurbished building in the UK to achieve the industry sustainability ‘BREEAM Outstanding’ award at design stage. The Centre will have to wait a further six months for the construction phase assessment.


Building of the Year Award - RIAS EAA Awards 

RICS - Winner – Building Conservation Awards

Scottish Property Awards - Architectural Excellence Award (Commercial Buildings) - Finalist – Highly Commended

Civic Trust Awards My Place Awards - Special commendation

Scottish Design Awards - Education Building of the Year

AJ Retrofit Awards 2014 (Shortlisted)

Energy Efficiency

ECCI has been designed to achieve an exceptionally low energy demand for a listed building (38% better CO2 emissions than if it were a new build):

  • Annual predicted energy/ CO2 consumption for space and water heating 730 021 KWhr (49.55 KgCO2/m2). 

  • Annual predicted energy/ CO2 consumption electrical usage 163 063 KWhr (28.91 KgCO2/m2) 

  • Total annual predicted CO2 emissions 21 KgCO2/m2 . 

  • Actual usage is currently being monitored and presented within the building, however not as yet available as an annual usage. 

  • Air tightness levels tested: 6.84 m3.h-1.m-2 @ 50 Pa.

Sustainable and Recycled Materials

The use of natural, local and sustainable materials has been prioritised and a pre-works audit meant that 96% of existing materials could be reused. The structural fabric of the building comes from a timber frame rather than the standard steel frame. The frame is made from a special blend of sustainable timber and over its lifetime the timber will sequest more carbon that was used to contruct it.

Clean & Green Energy Generation

A south-facing solar hub roof, an air-source heat pump and connection to a Combined Heat and Power source will meet the building’s low-carbon energy requirements.

Lean Energy Use

The first priority for this draughty and leaky Category B listed building was to make the new and existing parts as airtight as possible. A special tape was used to seal the period sash and case windows and a unique systrem of wall insulation will limit energy loss at the same time as ensuring effective ventilation. A sophisticated energy management system will also ensure the buidling's Energy Manager and building users engage effectively with the building's heating and ventilation controls.

Calum Duncan, Project Architect said:

the devil is in the detail

Calum Duncan, Project Architect

“There is no, one hi-tech feature that will ensure a historic building will be a centre of sustainability building with outstanding sustainable credentials....The devil is in the detail. It takes a lot of hard work and consideration in every small aspect of the building construction details, type of materials, where they come from, how they are made and how long they last." 

Energy efficient?

  • Lean - Reduce demand through passive design

  • Clean - Achieve high energy efficiency levels

  • Green - Low and carbon zero energy sources

Lean - Passive Design

Insulation; thin double glazing; air tightness

Sustainable design methods will enable a 30% reduction in energy consumption compared to the former building’s performance, and 30% less than building regulations demand.

  • Air Tightness: 5 (m3/h)/m2 at 50 Pa

  • High levels insulation achieved by replacing / upgrading windows; ‘sealed tight and ventilated right’

  • Maximising natural ventilation through the use of openable windows to provide both ventilation and reduce the overheating potential in the building.

  • Reduction of Solar Gains through the use of solar controlled glazing and solar shading.

  • Maximising the use of daylighting to reduce artificial lighting

Clean - High Levels of Energy Efficiency

  • Energy efficient lighting using infra red sensor, dimmable controls and daylight zoning.

  • Underfloor Heating in communal areas

  • Variable speed pumps – Space heating       

  • Building Management System – includes sub-metering to monitor different energy streams including; heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting etc

Green – Low/Zero Carbon Energy

District CHP Scheme (combined Heat and Power)

  • The building will be connected to nearby Combined Heat and Power (CHP) and associated electrical and district heating networks (DHN), allowing a 38% decrease in CO2 emissions and meeting 56% energy demand.

  • Air Source Heat Pump providing efficient cooling to a minimal number of rooms.

  • 30mPV (photo Voltaic) south facing hub roof - Creating a 2% CO2 reduction and meeting 1% energy demand.


  • Water saving sanitary appliances have been specified for the project including WCs, urinals and tap fittings.

  • A water meter and a leak detection system are specified to monitor water consumption and to minimise water wastage.

Contributing to a Sustainable City

The location within the City is important, the reuse of existing buildings and the walkability and amenity of our existing towns and cities being a key aspect of sustainability that is usually overlooked – what we might call the integrity of the city.

In remodelling and reusing the Old High School building we will recover an important Edinburgh space, the historic Surgeon’s Square, behind the old school (where the famous Edinburgh murderers and gravediggers, Burke and Hare, delivered cadavers to the dissecting studios of the famous Dr Knox).

We will replant and renew the Square, raising the usability – and therefore value – of the old buildings round it, including Old Surgeon’s Hall, dating from 1697.

We will also open-up the routes that connect to the town including the blocked public stairs down to the Cowgate, improving the connectivity of the City – the ability to walk to the main Station, or Parliament, or the Royal Park, being one of the primary aspects of a “sustainable” city. In this way history, for us, does not simply relate to tourism, but is about uncovering the value and usability – and therefore sustainability – of a place.

Within the building the key central space is the atrium, which we stitch between the old, 1777 building, and the later 19th century extension.  Our intention is to combine and contrast the weight and solidity of our historic architectures with a contemporary sensibility that is full of light, open-ness and connectivity. The principal atria space connecting through to the main conference and social spaces, providing an open meeting forum, whose lecture and café spaces, in turn, open out to the Square behind.




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Energy efficiency