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Enhancing the design of a new police headquarters building

Police headquarters

We used computer modelling to enhance the design of a proposed new police headquarters building in South Wales that would help meet the demands of the UK government’s commitment on climate change and the net-zero greenhouse gas target for 2050.

Our research explored solutions that would to reduce heat loss from the building, to improve the energy efficiency of the design and to integrate renewable energy generating technologies into the fabric of the building. A computer model of the building was created which enabled the team to understand the internal conditions and energy demands under both winter and summer conditions, as well as the potential to generate energy using solar power.


  • Optimise the design of a commercial building to achieve low carbon performance whilst  maintaining comfortable internal temperatures.
  • Investigate the potential to integrate renewable energy supply and energy storage technologies to reduce the buildings carbon intensive energy consumption from the grid.
  • Demonstrate the benefits of replicable low carbon solutions at a commercial scale using modelling

Low carbon solutions

  • Reduce the buildings energy demand by using high performance glazing and insulation.
  • Optimise design strategies to reduce heat accumulation within the building.
  • Enhance and manage ventilation within the building.
  • Generate renewable energy using solar panels.


Computer modelling indicated that the building would become uncomfortably hot at times during the summer and winter based on the initial design. Conventional air conditioning would be required to manage this which would significantly increase energy consumption and costs to run the building.

Heat accumulating in the building could be managed through a combination of design enhancements, the use of energy efficient equipment and lighting and high-performance windows and effective ventilation and shading strategies. The impact of air flow within the building could also be investigated with further modelling.

Modelling showed that solar panels on the roof or the external façade would not be able to generate enough energy to meet the energy demands of the building.

Lessons learnt

Due to the function and occupancy patterns of this building, any energy generated by solar panels would be used as it was generated. Therefore, battery storage would be unnecessary as there would be no excess generation.

The project has demonstrated the benefits of using computer modelling to inform building design and supported the fact that the whole energy system-based approach could be applied to large commercial buildings.

Project team

  • Low Carbon Built Environment (LCBE) team at the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University
  • Powell Dobson Architects Limited
  • Willmott Dixon Limited