School of Mathematical Sciences refurb achieves BREEAM Excellent

School of Mathematical Sciences refurb achieves BREEAM Excellent

This ambitious commitment from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) has improved overall quality of environment and added new teaching spaces and facilities.


The School of Mathematical Sciences is part of the QMUL. The building was unfit for purpose and required extensive refurbishment. The project team implemented sustainable strategies from the start to create new and efficient spaces. The project achieved a BREEAM rating of Excellent.


Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) is one of the UK’s leading universities, highly rated for its teaching, its research and its engagement activities at the local, national and international levels. With around 20,200 students and 4,000 staff, it is one of the biggest University of London colleges. 

The School of Mathematical Sciences Building is located on the Mile End Road between Stepney Green and Mile End tube stations in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It occupies a very prominent, highly visible, urban site overlooking the City and is a main gateway on the west boundary of the Queen Mary, University of London’s Mile End campus.  

The School of Mathematical Sciences is part of the University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering and occupies the split level 10-storey building. It was built for the Department of Mathematics in 1967 in a ‘brutalist’ style, with the reinforced concrete frame exposed externally and internally (within circulation areas).  


Prior to the refurbishment works, the building was poorly ventilated with outdated, inefficient building systems along with a poorly performing building fabric. The south side of the building (which represents around 50% of the building on plan) had secondary glazing and relied solely on mechanical ventilation for fresh air. The north side of the building was single glazed and naturally ventilated. 

The purpose of the redevelopment was to provide exceptional accommodation for academic/teaching staff as well as graduate and postgraduate students. By reconfiguring existing spaces, circulation and facilities, it planned to provide a new lecture theatre, teaching spaces, academic spaces, social spaces and associated facilities.

The overall objective was to enhance the appearance of the building and the quality of the environment, whilst also vastly improving its energy efficiency. With the building being so prominent and forming a gateway to the campus, this included optimising existing spaces and improving the links between buildings on the campus. The buildings renewed spaces are specifically designed to facilitate interaction and conversation while also providing quiet spaces for original thinking and relaxation.

Refurbishment work needed

The studies of the building prior to its refurbishment had identified it as being no longer “fit for purpose”. Primary considerations and key project objectives included:

  • Refurbishment and extension of the existing building to provide suitable accommodation for the School of Mathematical Sciences.

  • Upgrading the building envelope to improve air tightness, thermal performance and acoustic performance as well as meeting the University’s Carbon Strategy and EnerPHit certification.

  • Upgrading the building envelope to also improve appearance- reflecting the buildings prominent location.

  • Enhancing the approach and access, including integrating this with the ground floor extension.

  • Maximising reuse of existing structure to reduce waste.

  • Reconfiguring existing space and adding new study/tutorial areas, as well as new social spaces.

  • Reduce energy usage and carbon emissions whilst also including consideration of whole life costs and overall project affordability.

  • Targeting a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating overall.

  • Safe removal of asbestos containing materials.


This project deployed a range of innovative solutions to create a comfortable environment for staff and students in a way that reduces the building’s impact on the environment.

Health and wellbeing

During the design development, the team paid close attention to coordinating and integrating the structure and the occupied areas of the development including;

  • Solar shading

  • Lighting controls

  • High frequency lighting

  • Minimising internal areas requiring mechanical ventilation

  • Minimising direct solar gain to avoid air conditioning/comfort cooling

  • Maximising daylight factors in all areas.

These features meant the project achieved 15 out of 18 possible health and wellbeing credits.


The environmental services proposals were designed using the latest techniques for “active and passive” energy recovery and conservation including:

  • Maximising utilisation of plant and systems.

  • Maximising control and flexibility of the installations.

  • Heat recovery of all plant and systems.

  • Full integrated BMS coverage.

Photovoltaic panels were also incorporated as a Low Zero Carbon strategy to further improve carbon reduction.


Water saving devices and fittings were used throughout the development to achieve maximum water consumption credits and a 55.39% improvement over baseline performance. Major leak detection and flow control devices were installed to minimise water wastage. Maximum credits were subsequently achieved within the water category.

This allowed 9 out of 9 water credits to be awarded. 

Land use and ecology

The project installed bird and bat boxes and a living wall within the development to improve the land use and ecology elements of the development.


Transport links to the development are excellent with the nearest stations on the London Underground being Mile End on Hammersmith and City, District and Central lines and Stepney Green on the Hammersmith and City and District lines.

This meant the project achieved maximum public transport accessibility credits to be achieved and 7 out of 9 transport credits overall.


Early engagement of the team and specialist appointments made at the appropriate stages allowed the majority of the management credits to be targeted and achieved. This allowed 18/21 Management credits to be awarded.

Entrance to the School of Mathematical Sciences. Photo credit- Craig Auckland, Fotohaus.
Entrance to the School of Mathematical Sciences. Photo credit- Craig Auckland, Fotohaus.


The University’s Green Strategy included carrying out extensive reviews of the existing building to assess elements that could viable and efficiently be maintained as part of the refurbished solution, whilst not compromising on its final performance. This resulted in re-use the existing building and upgrading the existing façade to improve thermal performance and air tightness and updating building services elements to reduce energy use and carbon emissions.

Whilst targeting high scoring throughout, BREEAM also focused the team specifically on energy, water and health and wellbeing. This was in line with the project goals of an exceptional environment for users and vastly improved operational resource use efficiency. By targeting the relevant credits and setting early-stage targets to achieve a 40% carbon reduction over the existing building and minimise water consumption and waste, BREEAM became a key driver to achieving the client’s requirements.

Passive design analysis at an early stage allowed the existing orientation and location to be considered when reconfiguring the existing space. Larger teaching spaces were located on the southern elevation which benefitted from daylighting but would also benefit from solar gains in summer. This was then reviewed and considered further through thermal modelling to allow the area to achieve maximum thermal comfort including an allowance for climate change within the strategy.

The BREEAM process was very enlightening and enabled sustainability principles to be embedded in the project from an early stage. Notable strategies included a high performing façade, natural ventilation and energy efficient HVAC.
– Harry Pluckrose, Project Manager, Partner Gardiner & Theobald Project Management

Kendall Kingscott Limited, White Ink Architects

Kendall Kingscott Limited, White Ink Architects
Building Services:
MLM Consulting Engineers Ltd
Scott White and Hookins LLP
BREEAM UK Refurbishment and Fit-out 2014
BREEAM rating:
Excellent (75.7%)

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