State of the union

Nottingham has a new landmark in the form of an impressive students’ union building

Nottingham Trent University has unveiled its new students’ union building. The development, a landmark on Shakespeare Street in Nottingham city centre, replaces the now demolished Byron House. With three storeys of social and leisure space beneath four residential blocks, it is a major investment for the university’s city site. The development cost a total of £60 million, including the construction of adjacent accommodation in Gill Street, and has created an additional 911 high-quality student residences. It’s a joint venture with University Partnerships Programme (UPP) and was designed by Nottingham-based architects Church Lukas and built by Vinci Construction UK. The new building follows the £90 million redevelopment of the university’s Newton and Arkwright buildings – also based at the city site – and takes Nottingham Trent University’s recent investment in its estates to £350 million.

“During the past decade we’ve carried out a bold regeneration programme to transform our estates into the modern facilities that our students now enjoy,” says the vice-chancellor of Nottingham Trent University, Professor Neil Gorman. “Our aim was to provide facilities that would inspire students, and the design of our new students’ union building, following extensive consultation with our students, is no exception in that regard.

“With the recent redevelopment of our Newton and Arkwright buildings at the city site, I now believe that Nottingham Trent University has one of the most impressive city-centre campuses in the UK.”

One of the unique features of the design is the south-facing facade of the tallest accommodation block which elevates in a variety of directions.

In the students’ union itself, a 2,400-capacity venue has been constructed and features £1 million-worth of light and sound equipment. Complete with a large stage, it will be used for live music and entertainment while doubling as a daytime bar. Added to this social mix are two large wi-fi lounges complete with café bars and an underground retreat where students can relax and mingle.

The leisure facilities include an impressive sports hall built to Sport England standards, a 100-station fitness suite, a dance studio and a 30ft climbing wall which rises through three floors and acts as a feature. A modern retail unit has also been built to provide groceries.

New, spacious offices and meeting rooms have also been provided for Nottingham Trent students’ union, complete with a radio studio. Other office space houses some of the university’s student services.

The students’ union has impressive green credentials, too, and it is hoped it will achieve BREEAM excellence. As well as being connected to the district heating system, it features underfloor heating and smart windows which open and close automatically to regulate room temperature. Low-energy, power-down lighting is also in operation, switching off lights automatically when no-one is in the room, while energy display monitors provide live data on the building’s power usage. Between three of the residential blocks on top of the students’ union are two private roof gardens, complete with trees, lawns, plants and seating areas.

 “From the beginning the new building has been an exciting project,” says Jo Southwell-Sander, president of the Nottingham Trent Students’ Union. “There has been student input in the research stage, right through to trying out the chairs for the lounge. Students have been able to see their ideas and thoughts really echo throughout the building. 

“Not only is the building in a location that truly cannot be missed, it has a wide range of facilities that students need. From the sports facilities to the advice centre, there is no doubt that this will be a lively hub for the diverse range of students we have at Nottingham Trent University. The excitement that is already circulating is fantastic.”

Since construction began in February last year, up to 3,000 labourers and tradesmen have worked on the site, 170 of whom were taken out of unemployment.

“From the very beginning of our campus transformation programme we set our ambitions extremely high and I’m proud to say that we’ve done a good job in achieving them,” says the university’s chief financial and operations officer, Stephen Jackson. “We’ve developed some of the most impressive university buildings in the country and the new students’ union building is without doubt among the very best, if not the best. It gives me great pleasure to say that our work at the city site has not only been a major improvement to our premises, but also to the northern part of Nottingham city centre as a whole.”

Sean O’Shea, CEO of University Partnerships Programme, adds: “I’m delighted to be celebrating the opening of what I believe is one of the best student union buildings in the country. UPP are committed to providing the best facilities to enhance the student experience. Working in close partnership with Nottingham Trent University, we have delivered high-quality student accommodation and students’ union space.

“By pairing modern facilities with responsible, intelligent energy-saving solutions, we aim to continually raise the bar for the student experience. This development represents an innovative environment that we hope matches the aspirations of its students.”

Key facts 

  • Standing at nearly 130 feet tall, accommodation block A is one of the tallest structures in Nottingham city centre
  • At the peak of the construction programme four tower cranes were in use at once, with the highest being 60 meters tall
  • The sports hall features two 500-tonne concrete beams to support the accommodation above
  • Both beams are reinforced with six steel cables which have each been post-tensioned to 4,250 kilonewtons in strength
  • Ninety-five per cent of the waste used onsite was recycled
  • More than ten different types of glass were used
  • More than 2,500 doors have been fitted
  • Up to 600 deliveries of materials were taken a week
  • Almost of third of a million bricks were laid as part of the scheme