UWE builds on success

Issue date: 23 July 2009

Architects' plans for the extension of R Block The award winning building housing the Faculty of Environment and Technology at the University of the West of England is set to double in size. Foundations have been laid in preparation for the main contractor Willmott Dixon Construction, to commence construction in August 2009 for a completion 12 months later in time for the start of term in September 2010.

John Rushforth, UWE's Deputy Vice-Chancellor said, “This flagship building has won many prizes and it provides an exemplary environment for our architecture and product design students who can learn much about design simply by working in such inspiring and innovative surroundings. The building will house students from a range of design and architecture programmes cultivating a multi-disciplinary approach to the creative process. The £10.5 million extension is the next phase of the Universities huge investment programme and we are paying attention to detail to ensure that the quality and sustainability of the building is maintained and that it meets the needs of disabled users.”

“The design is the result of a very successful collaboration both between the architects and UWE staff and between staff and students with one student assigned on a placement with the design team.”

The building will be of steel framed construction on simple pad foundations. Floors will comprise of precast concrete planks and the roof will consist of a lightweight steel standing seam construction.

The three storey extension will create a flexible learning environment of approximately 2700m2 comprising teaching and office accommodation, informal learning spaces, conferencing and training rooms and social spaces.

The ground floor will include a café with WiFi and fixed PCs, a flexibly designed Lecture Theatre with a capacity to seat approximately 150 people and five teaching spaces all furnished with fixed audio visual installations.

The first and second floor will include flexible teaching spaces, offices, an IT Hub and print area and a central area for informal learning, presentations and displays.

To the south of the building a plaza, landscaped with a wild flower meadow and silver birch trees, will provide an external area to socialise and relax.

Project Co-ordinator Phil Lawrence from UWE's Estates and Facilities Department is keen to ensure that Phase II utilises successful design elements from the original building constructed in 2001/02, and will also incorporate additional sustainable design features.

He said, “Estates and the Design Team have worked hard to incorporate innovation and sustainable practices into many aspects of the design in aspiring to achieve a BREEAM 'Excellent' rating for the building, using the BRE Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM), which is the most widely used environmental assessment method for buildings. With a high environmental performance, the energy usage and associated running costs will be minimal.

“Sustainable elements incorporated in the building design include ground coupled ductwork to provide a temperature drop of the air intake to the building to avoid the need to install air conditioning, natural ventilation with bris soliel, rainwater to service the toilets, and wall construction comprising partially of straw bale to enhance thermal and acoustic performance.

The building will be heated using biofuel, which is recycled cooking oil, and the building will also contain a high recycled material content, notably the rainscreen cladding tiles which have an approximate 93% recycled content. A covered bicycle shelter will provide parking for 60 bicycles, and there will be three showers located on the ground floor.

The Faculty are also keen to use the building as a teaching aid, and with the building finished as a 'what you see is what you get', details such as the steel frame and mechanical and electrical services will be exposed to enable students to see how the building works.”

The Project will be used as an academic case study for courses provided by the School of the Built and Natural Environment, and there will be opportunities for planned site visits throughout the construction project.

For more information see http://www.uwe.ac.uk/et/rblock2


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