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Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI), University of Edinburgh, UK

As a world-class interdisciplinary research and teaching facility focused on key climate related challenges facing society, it was important that The Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI) demonstrated the highest sustainability credentials. It has been designed to achieve an exceptionally low energy demand, in particular given that it involves the refurbishment of an existing and protected historic building.  ECCI has achieved BREEAM Outstanding at design stage. This is the first refurbished or ‘listed’ historic building to achieve a BREEAM Outstanding rating (with the construction stage confirmation awaited).

We need to focus on maintaining and upgrading our existing building stock before creating new. Significantly, ECCI is the reuse of an existing building in a historic city centre location.  It is possible - with careful consideration - to work with the historic fabric and provide a building which accommodates ‘current day’ user requirements, while acknowledging the importance of sustainable materials and low energy demand.

For example, the choice of façade material on the upper levels of new construction is bronze – an alloy of copper and tin.  It is light in weight, which reduces demand on the structure and copper is a material which itself generally contains a high proportion of recycled material from scrap.  It is also a durable and a recyclable material.          


The ECCI involved a major alteration and extension of the protected Old High School building, Infirmary Street.  The brief included consideration of adjoining buildings and proposals to reinvigorate the land within the High School Yards, to the boundary of Infirmary Street at the front and the enclosed space of Surgeon’s Square to the rear. High School Yards has always been a significant architectural site and has gone through many incarnations since its beginnings as Blackfriars Monastery from 1230.              

Due to the piecemeal fashion of the many changes that had occurred over the years, the existing building as a whole was lacking a sense of cohesion and its circulation was unclear. By removing the linking stair that connected the two significant front and rear buildings, it has been possible to create a generous central heart and circulation space.  From this atrium, all accommodation spaces have a direct connection and their presence is visually legible.  In response to the clients brief, this circulation space is a focus for interaction between a variety of building users and will provide informal break out space for small post graduate student groups, staff and businesses.   

Bronze cladding defines the new intervention running through the building and uniting the historic parts. The accommodation spaces throughout the building have been reconfigured to provide well-proportioned and suitably sized spaces which can be used as flexibly as possible, as office, teaching or meeting areas.    

Specific decisions were made to provide varying degrees of services for ventilation and IT within different spaces, so that the building, as a whole, can suit changes in the future and also cater on a day-to-day basis for a variety of events. The accommodation now includes refurbished teaching/seminar space, lecture/conferencing facilities; meeting rooms; staff offices; a Masters student hub; café and external landscaped areas.       



Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI), University of Edinburgh
Completion date: 
United Kingdom
Zip code: 
High School Yards, Infirmary Street


Type of building: 
Copper used: 


Name, office: 
Malcolm Fraser Architects

Copper contractors

Address & description: 
Copper product: TECU Bronze®



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