Image of There were three main elements to the build – an extensive basement; a single storey kitchen extension; and a three-storey extension
Pictures: David Valinsky Photography

College closer to net zero with kitchen and dining upgrade

A major redevelopment of the College's kitchen and dining facilities is complete and sets new standards for improving sustainability in a historic setting.

The new spaces successfully incorporate modern cooking facilities and renewable energy solutions while remaining sympathetic to the Grade I-listed buildings which date back to the founding of the Benedictine convent of St Mary and St Radegund in the 12th century.

Before building work began in 2019, neither the location nor the size of the kitchen had changed significantly for some 850 years, despite the average number of meals being served daily having increased from around 30 to up to 1,000 on peak days.

The development has not only revitalised the facilities at the heart of the College, it also improves access for catering staff and diners, while helping Jesus take a significant step towards its net zero ambition.

There were three main elements to the build – an extensive basement for storage and plant rooms; a single storey extension increasing the kitchen floor area by 60 per cent; and a three-storey extension to improve access between the kitchen and dining areas for catering teams.

Architect Paul Vonberg said: “It was essential to Jesus College that we preserve and develop the character of the buildings around Pump Court – which date from the 12th century right up to the 1960s– as well as ensure functionality.

“It was partly this intention which led to such a significant proportion of the accommodation being placed below ground. Essentially, what has been created is an 'iceberg' with only two relatively small pieces of building showing themselves above ground.”

Sustainability was a priority. Gas boilers have been replaced by a ground source heat pump network, providing sustainable heating and cooling to the entire development. It is estimated that this switch alone will save 154 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year – equivalent to the annual carbon emissions from 71 (internal combustion engine) cars.

Stuart Websdale, Jesus College’s Domestic Bursar, said: “This development delivers extraordinary new facilities to one of the oldest parts of the College and these will benefit our students, Fellows, staff, alumni and visitors for generations to come.

“As a College, we have set ourselves ambitious targets to improve our sustainability credentials by reducing our carbon emissions, and this scheme helps us significantly in our aim to achieve net zero.

“The ground source heat pump approach for all heating, cooling and hot water in a kitchen of this scale is considered pioneering and the College has been inundated with enquiries about this innovative approach. We also incorporated high levels of natural materials and insulation. A high percentage of the materials used were sourced within the UK and water treatment, heat recovery and the retention of as much original fabric as possible were also a key focus.

“Not only have we invested in our buildings and facilities, but this scheme allows us to develop our catering offering to meet the changing needs of our community, with a significant shift towards vegetarian and plant-based menus, increased procurement of local sustainable produce, and a commitment to reduce food waste.  Collectively, these all contribute to a reduction in our carbon footprint.”

The project also plays a significant part in improving accessibility within the College. The installation of a passenger lift means all dining areas are now fully accessible.

Materials (chiefly stone, brick and oak) which would weather 'comfortably' over centuries were chiefly used. Windows and portholes offer glimpses into the subterranean kitchen space as the College was keen to celebrate the cooking process and acknowledge the kitchen and its staff are an integral part of College life.

Dan Thomas, Director of Northmores which project managed the development said: “Northmores have been proud to project manage the delivery of the kitchen project for Jesus College. The scheme has been delivered to an extremely high-quality standard which is a testament to the collaborative relationship between all parties – not least of which Gilbert-Ash (main contractor), Paul Vonberg Architects, Max Fordham, Faithful & Gould, Price & Myers, Ramboll, and Sweco. We believe the completed project will provide the College with the ability to deliver outstanding catering from fit-for-purpose facilities for years to come.”