Issue date: 27 November 2001

The University of the West of England is using innovative materials and processes in a new purpose-built facility for Architecture and Planning students and researchers at the Frenchay Campus of UWE.

The new A& P Studio building is designed to be sustainable and to meet high standards of environmental performance. It has been specifically designed to be economical to run with no heating; heat will be generated by the people in the building and lots of natural light.

The new building uses a range of innovative techniques and materials. It is believed to be the first building in the UK which uses a construction method known as thin-bed masonry – where the bricks are glued together instead of using cement. The technique is quicker than conventional methods and the glue is strong enough to allow large spans without lintels. The bricklayers on the project had to travel Belgium to learn the technique – which has been used more commonly on the continent.

The new building will make maximum use of natural daylight, have a natural ventilation strategy and use rainwater collected on the roof for flushing toilets. It will also have changing rooms and showers for cyclists.

Head of Architecture at UWE, Richard Parnaby says, “As well as meeting the highest possible environmental standards the new building will also provide a valuable learning resource for students and researchers in the Faculty of the Built Environment. The progress of the construction is being recorded by a series of webcams which can be viewed by the public, students and staff at

In addition a series of ‘research panels’ will allow new materials and processes to be tested by researchers at the University. In the initial construction these will be ‘modular cellular’ panels which incorporate compressed straw bales as the core insulation medium. But at a future date these can be replaced with different materials for testing by University research staff.

The Project Manager at UWE, John Fell, says, “We are delighted to be moving forward with this exciting new project. It is appropriate that the new Architecture and Planning Studio Building should demonstrate innovative features and seek to highlight the importance of sustainability while providing a teaching and research resource for students and staff at UWE.”

The A&P Studio Building is to be located at the North end of the Frenchay Campus linked by a bridge to the adjacent Q block which houses the Faculty of the Built Environment. The building has a central ‘street’ which runs east-west, the full length of the building. As well as being an exhibition space this provides natural light and allows the building to be naturally ventilated. This space acts as the ‘lungs’ of the building removing the need for air conditioning and reducing the building’s energy use by two-thirds over that of a similar building. The landscape around the new building will also enhance the use of natural features with the addition of trees and extensive planting.

The three storey building will contain eight studio spaces, a 200 seat lecture room and a specialised GIS (Geographic Information System) studio as well as several other areas dedicated to teaching and services.


Editor's notes

1.Construction started on the building in September 2001. The steel frame, external shell and floors are all now in place. The roof is expected on before Christmas. Final completion is expected by May 2002. The use of the innovative brick work technique (thin-bed masonry) is now underway.

2. A visual in jpeg format of the new building is available by emailing

3. The design Team for the building is as follows:
Buro Happold - Lead Consultant and Structural and Building Services engineers
Turner & Townsend – Quantity surveyor
Wilmott Dixon - Main contractor
White Design - Architecture

4. The Architecture and Planning Studio is part of the Faculty of the Built Environment – one of UWE’s largest Faculties with 2100 students and 221 staff. The Architecture and Planning course is a new undergraduate award which brings together these two disciplines for the first time. The award also leads to appropriate professional qualifications and is recognised by The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), and the Architects Registration Board (ARBA).

5. Additional notes on the building:

The orientation of the building will take advantage of the prevailing wind direction to assist ventilation and maximise daylight. The building will be cooled at night by a series of automated windows opening to drive air through the building. This cooling at night will allow the building to absorb more heat during the day thus lowering peak temperatures. A vacuum solar collector on the roof will supplement conventionally heated domestic hot water.

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