Places & spaces: December 2020

What’s sprouting on UK universities right now? University Business rounds up the latest architecture and construction news

The University of Birmingham

The University of Birmingham’s new £22.7m Teaching and Learning Building at its Edgbaston campus is a state-of-the-art studying environment.

With an internal crystal structure fitted with two lecture theatres, surrounded by a network of bridges leading to seminar rooms, open learning spaces and a cafe, the new building is a marriage of extraordinary form and function.

Designed by national contractor Willmott Dixon, the building has a 300m2 PV array to help conserve energy and save an estimated 21 tonnes of CO2 per year. The crystal interior is a flexible steel structure, clad in 730 unique pieces of Stoventec-glazed, Bulgarian-made panels.

The level of student involvement was high throughout the project.

Two engineering students at the university provided input through site visits, product manufacturing assessments and advising on final selection processes.

More than a thousand students visited the site throughout construction and attended workshops about the project, and the scheme also supported 22 different university research projects.

Cardiff University

Cardiff University

Opening in summer 2021, and constructed by BAM in partnership with Cardiff University Students’ Union, the Centre for Student Life is to be an integrated home for the university’s support and wellbeing services.

The university has also invested in new software to enhance student support services. Through Student Connect, an online portal, students can find answers to frequently asked questions and will in future be able to book appointments with the Student Connect team.

A new 550-seat lecture theatre in the building, named after Welsh businessman and philanthropist Sir Stanley Thomas OBE, will become Cardiff University’s largest, with 600 flexible study spaces over five floors.

Luke Morgan, a student at Cardiff University and a ‘wellbeing champion’, says: “The new Centre for Student Life will allow us to reach more students than ever before and in new, innovative ways. It demonstrates the passion that all those involved show towards mental health and allows wellbeing to become a keystone part of life at Cardiff University.”

University of Southampton

Southampton University

Portsmouth-based construction company Brymor Group is to refurbish the currently unoccupied Montefiore Block at the University of Southampton.

The 1960s building is the oldest accommodation block at the Wessex Lane campus and though structurally sound, its facilities have had continual maintenance issues.

The project, due to start this month, will see the complete refurbishment of the bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen facilities and communal spaces, with additional improved kitchens to be added and communal washrooms converted into self-contained pods. External landscaping, paving, footpaths, signage and lighting will also be considered.

“While this project is a refurbishment rather than a complete rebuild, the plans are no less meticulous and have been carefully devised to ensure the blocks are modernised, functional and comfortable for new students,” says Stephen Morton, MD of Brymor.

The university hopes to open the newly refurbished accommodation in 2021.

Host Student Housing

Host Student Housing

Student accommodation company Host Student Housing has provided almost a thousand beds across three new private halls sites in Southampton, Leicester and Colchester.

Host is in the business of upcycling – the Covid-safe halls replace a vacant brownfield site, a redundant bus station and a tired office block. At Southampton Crossings, students have access to a rooftop garden as well as a karaoke room, and 27 Magdalen Street houses three triple-storey buildings in the centre of Colchester, complete with quiet study areas and a common room.

John Nesbitt, managing director at Host Student Housing, says: “Delivering new, modern and, most importantly, safe accommodation for students has been our priority in 2020. I’m very proud that our team has completed these developments on time […] and that we are ready to provide more students a safe, friendly and high-quality environment in which to start their studies.”

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