ECCI's new building an exemplar of low carbon building technology for Chinese officials' visit

31 May 2012

ECCI's state of the art, energy efficient building on the site of Edinburgh's Old High School was selected as an exemplar of low carbon building technologies for a recent visit by Chinese energy officials.

Chinese officials site visit. Elizabete Rancane for ECCI

The group of 7 government officials from Guangdong province - the most populous province in China and home to the economic hub Shenzhen - came to the UK to participate in meetings and discussions with government officials and companies to share best practice on policy-making and governance in energy efficiency issues, especially energy retrofitting in public buildings.

They rounded off the trip by visiting ECCI, hearing presentations on low carbon building technology and policy from Dr Elena Prokofieva (Institute for Sustainable Construction, Edinburgh Napier University) and Professor Ming Sun (School of the Built Environment, Heriot Watt University). 

Chinese officials site visit. Elizabete Rancane for ECCI

The group were then shown a real-life example of exemplary sustainable building in ECCI's new home currently under construction at High School Yards. Malcolm Fraser (Director, Malcolm Fraser Architects) guided the group around the site of Edinburgh’s historic Old High School which will be transformed into a state of the art, energy efficient hub for knowledge, innovation and skills.

Work began on the construction of our new home in February 2012. The build involves the refurbishment and remodeling of space in the University of Edinburgh’s Old High School in High School Yards and will comprise an innovation suite, lecture theatres, seminar rooms, exhibition and social space.

more>>High School Yards Build in pictures

more>>ECCI and China

What makes it innovative?

  • BREAAM ‘Outstanding’ target

  • Lean - Reducing demand through passive design

  • Clean - High energy efficiency levels

  • Green - Low and carbon zero energy sources – CHP & rainwater harvesting

  • SMART – Building Management System

  • Contributing to a sustainable city – opening up walkways to Holyrood & Surgeons Square

  • History of HighSchool Yards – murder, mystery & suspense!

    more>>Our new building

The objective is to create a low energy, highly efficient building targeting a minimum industry sustainability standard (BREEAM) rating of ‘Excellent’ and an aspirational rating of ‘Outstanding’ - if achieved, the building will be the first listed or refurbished building to be awarded this rating.

Architect Malcom Fraser said: 

"The buildings that have achieved this standard of energy efficiency in the past have all been brand new and look mostly like space ships. Yet the only way we can achieve carbon targets is by retrofitting existing building stock, not by building more new buildings."

At the design and build stage this commitment has involved careful consideration of building materials, building methods, energy use & transport choices (for visitors and contractors), which has been led by award winning architects Malcolm Fraser Architects, contractors Graham and and Harley Haddow, Mechanical and Electrical consulting engineers. BREEAM considerations include: Waste, Pollution, Land Use & Ecology, Materials, Management, Health & Wellbeing, Energy, Transport, Water and Innovation. For more information visit

Watch architect Malcolm Fraser talking about the innovative methods behind the High School retrofit at the ECCI Showcase:

Presenter biographies

Dr Elena Prokofieva

Institute for Sustainable Construction

Edinburgh Napier University

Elena Prokofieva graduated from University of Nizhnij Novgorod, Russia, with BSc (1997) and MSc (1999) degrees. She then obtained a PhD in Acoustics from University of Bradford, UK in 2003 doing the project for NXT Ltd upon improvement of sound from DML flat panels.

Before coming to Edinburgh Napier University, Dr Prokofieva had worked in the audio industry as an acoustic design engineer for 4 years for Linn Products Ltd, Glasgow, UK. She was involved in many research projects during this time, including loudspeaker development, installation and demonstration. She also conducted research in room acoustics and acoustic modelling. She joined RMP in 2007 as knowledge transfer researcher. Elena was involved in various research projects run in collaboration with BPAC “Hangar 17” construction product test facility in Fife and was involved as a supervisor in two knowledge transfer partnerships: with Anderson Monarflex Icopal UK Ltd (development of building membranes), and with SFX Technologies (acoustic properties of new materials for gel-audio drivers).

In June 2010 Elena became a project manager for Low Carbon Building Technologies Gateway. She is also involved in supervision of an MRes student and two PhD students. Through the years of research Elena has published a number of scientific articles, both in English and Russian. Elena is a member of Institute of Acoustics, Audio Engineering Society and Russian Acoustic Society.

Profesor Ming Sun

Chair in Construction Management and Innovation

Heriot Watt University

Professor Ming Sun graduated from the School of Architecture, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China in 1985. He completed his PhD on integrated building design systems at Newcastle University in 1993. He then worked as a research associate at Newcastle on the EU Computer Models for the Building Industry in Europe (COMBINE) project (1990-1995). He was appointed as Lecturer of Architecture (computing) in 1994.

Professor Sun moved to University of Salford in 1996 as a Lecturer of Construction IT and subsequently was promoted to Senior Lecturer. His main research during this period was on integrated IT systems for building design support, construction management and facilities management. His research projects were funded by EPSRC, DTI and construction firms.

In 2002, Professor Sun was appointed as Professor of Construction Informatics at the University of the West of England, Bristol. He became the Director of Construction and Property Research Centre in 2005. Amongst the scholarly activities, he led the Constructing Excellence South West initiative (2004-2012), which was funded by the regional development agency and supported by key stakeholders of the construction industry in that region. Its main aim was to promote performance improvement and sustainable development principles in the construction sector. His research interests have been expanded into areas of construction project management and sustainable construction and development, with funding support from ESRC, TSB/EPSRC, HEFCE and private companies.

In April 2012, Professor Sun joined the School of the Built Environment at Heriot-Watt University as Chair in Construction Management and Innovation.

Malcolm Fraser

Director, Malcolm Fraser Architects

Malcolm Fraser was born in Edinburgh and educated at the University of Edinburgh. Following University he worked as a community architect in Wester Hailes in Edinburgh; with architect and theorist Christopher Alexander in Berkeley, California; conservation practices in Edinburgh; and with poet and artist Ian Hamilton Finlay at his garden, Little Sparta, near Edinburgh. He formed his architectural practice in 1993. The practice first made its name with bars and restaurants for clients like Pizza Express, and with lottery-funded arts projects. The practice’s work encompasses conservation and new build, often in historic contexts such as Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site, based on respect for the historic built context and the need to build within it in a rooted, confident, contemporary way. It has also completed masterplanning and construction work for volume housebuilders that has won for them, for the first time in Scotland, major awards - for The Drum, Bo'ness, West Lothian and Princess Gate, Fairmilehead, Edinburgh.

The Malcolm Fraser Architect's practice has, between 1999 and 2009, won the Edinburgh Architectural Association (EAA) Building of the Year/Silver Medal five times, the Conservation award twice plus other EAA Awards and Commendations. Using this as a platform Fraser has campaigned about built environment issues in Edinburgh, including initiatives for Princes Street, the Grassmarket and the redevelopment of Boroughmuir High School, each of which has been adopted by Edinburgh City Council as policy.

Andrew Mitchell

Business Manager

Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation.

Andrew is an award-winning programme manager with 18 years experience in the ICT sector and 11 years experience in business-university collaboration and commercialisation. His career has been within small and large businesses and world leading research-intensive universities; internationally across Scotland, England, the USA and Australia. From 2007-2011 he was a key member of the commercialisation team at Informatics in Edinburgh; Europe’s largest and the UK’s top rated Computer Science research department. With a special focus on entrepreneurship education, Andrew has facilitated over €12M of public and private funding to support startups and spinouts.

A key achievement whilst with Informatics was establishing an annual investor showcase, which along with the wider Informatics commercial team, has facilitated over €10M seed funding deals. Andrew was recognised for making an “exceptional contribution” to commercial activity and in November 2010 Informatics Ventures was awarded “Best contribution to a Smarter Scotland” by the Scottish Government. Andrew has worked closely with Microsoft BizSpark as a Network Partner; has been a mentor on the IBM SmartCamp programme in Barcelona and London; and has been a panel speaker and Global Entrepreneurship Competition Judge at the World Innovation Summit, Barcelona in 2010 & 2011. From 2002-2006, Andrew worked for the Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning at the University of Cambridge, where he designed, built and delivered entrepreneurship programmes on behalf of the Cambridge-MIT Institute Limited (CMI); a $100M knowledge-exchange partnership.

Andrew is a Committee Member of the Research Centre of Globalisation at Renmin University of China; and was Project Manager of a Low Carbon Economic Policy and Implementation Training Programme for the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission in February 2012. He is also a sub-group member of Scotland's 2020 Climate Group.