CASE STUDY: Full-scale Active Office demonstration influenced design of +20 other buildings

Buildings account for about 40% of global carbon emissions and 40% of energy produced. To address the energy crisis and reduce emissions, there needs to be radical change in the way buildings are designed, built and integrated into our energy system – at scale. 

But construction is a slow process and the industry is resistant to change. New design principles or technologies must be well-proven before they will be adopted by the wider market.  


The Active Office

Tubes on the side of the Active Office building reflecting the sunlight

The Active Office is the flagship in SPECIFIC’s Active Building low-carbon demonstrator programme.

It was designed to generate more energy than it consumes in an annual cycle, using commercially available technologies and existing supply chains.  

Using a combination of renewable technologies and clever control strategies, it has:  

  • A NET energy consumption <0.5% of a conventional office. 
  • Saved ~70 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in operation (plus renewable energy fed to the grid). 
  • Provided 40,000 miles of fossil-fuel-free motoring via four electric vehicle charging points.  
  • Influenced the design of more than 20 other new low carbon buildings  


Support for other developments

Learning from the development and use of this building has been shared with the construction industry through hundreds of site visits, CPD sessions with architects, and a detailed design toolkit. 

As a result, the team has supported a number of subsequent developments to adopt the ‘active’ design principle, including: 

  • Y Twyni – retrofit of a building at Swansea University Bay Campus.  
  • Solar OASIS, India – a community building in the village of Khuded in Maharahstra, India, led by the SUNRISE project. 

It also played a large part in the establishment of the £36m Active Building Centre, a UK centre of excellence aimed at transforming the way buildings are powered and heated, which occupied the Active Office during the first year.  


“It’s difficult to overstate the potential of developing a building that powers itself. The concept could genuinely revolutionise not only the construction sector but completely change how we create and use energy, so the opening of the Active Office in Swansea is an exciting step forward. Developing technologies like those demonstrated in the SPECIFIC Active Office can play a strong role in the Government’s modern industrial strategy to create ‘clean growth’ and fulfil our mission to halve the emissions of new buildings by 2030”  

Ian Campbell, Executive Chair of Innovate UK, June 2018