The Diamond

Sheffield / United Kingdom / 2015

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43 Love 5,201 Visits Published

The Diamond at The University of Sheffield was completed in September 2015, it is the largest capital investment in teaching and learning ever undertaken by the University. It makes a major contribution to the University’s ambition to develop and expand its Faculty of Engineering with world-class facilities for students and academics. Designed by Twelve Architects*, the building is named The Diamond after its unique façade. It is a 19,500m2 facility, housing specialist engineering laboratories, lecture theatres, large scale flexible teaching spaces, workshops, a learning resource centre, and integrated formal and informal study environments for up to 5,000 students. As well as providing a home for many of the University’s Engineering undergraduates, The Diamond provides a 24/7 facility for a range of other departments, promoting collaboration and cross-disciplinary working in an environment fit for 21st century research and practice. The brief called for a landmark building that would symbolise and support the client’s ambition of becoming the UK’s leading engineering university and doubling the size of the Faculty of Engineering by 2021. The brief required the scheme to optimise the site’s development potential in both the quantum and quality of space created. It sorts to integrate a complex mix of functions into a flexible and efficient layout that creates an inspiring and innovative learning and teaching environment. From the outset of the initial budget estimate at concept stage the construction and project costs were managed through detailed design reviews and cost planning gateways to ensure that the costs remained within the budget. This was maintained through procurement and negotiation of the main contract into the post contract stages, where the construction works and project were both delivered within the client’s budget. The external appearance creates a distinctive presence for the Diamond. The anodised aluminium and triple glazed façade draws inspiration from the detailing of the surrounding historic buildings and in particular the stone tracery that frames the windows of the adjacent church. It also references a ‘cellular automaton’, a discrete model studied in the field of engineering and used by the University to describe how the microstructure of steel changes during processing. To reduce internal heat gain and solar glare the size of the windows on the south elevation are smaller than those on the north, and the external anodised diamond ‘lattice’ provides an element of solar shading.


The design provides a public route at ground floor level which also accesses the first floor main central atrium, enabling people to view the ‘showcase’ engineering activities being undertaken. Within the naturally ventilated atrium, curved lightweight steel ‘pods’ house spaces for informal personal and group learning. The raking orange columns that support these are expressed at all levels within the building. Classrooms, laboratories, the learning resource centre and offices are arranged to the north and south of the atrium. These wings and the façade utilise a 1.8m planning grid to allow future adaptability.


The wings are constructed using post-tensioned reinforced concrete to maximise spans, minimise floor depths and reduce the construction programme. Full height glazing maximises internal views to and from the teaching spaces. Rooflights flood the interior with daylight and custom-designed glazed study tables within the first floor atrium allow the natural light to penetrate the ground and lower ground levels whilst also creating acoustic separation. A series of flexible teaching spaces & lecture theatres are located at the ground and lower ground floor level with a total capacity of 1500 spaces, with the largest lecture theatre seating 400 people. The introduction of the basement into the scheme significantly increased the potential area of the scheme and also enabled the basement to act as a ‘raft’ foundation which omitted the need for pile foundations. To enable the Faculty of Engineering to meet its growth it was critical The Diamond opened in September 2015. The project team worked closely with the university to both programme and monitor the development and delivery, resulting in The Diamond opening on time for the start of the academic year. With applications up by 25% for The Faculty of Engineering for the current academic year, the client team believes The Diamond has a key role to play in continuing to attract world class academics and the best students.


The ethos of the building is to support work across the full spectrum of engineering, from fundamental science to professional practice. The Diamond plays an integral part in the university’s wider research programme and their partnership with industry through the establishment of The Advanced Manufacturing Research Park which has attracted companies such as Boeing and Rolls Royce and has become a huge catalyst for regeneration in the Sheffield City Region. Speaking about the Diamond, Keith Lilley, Director of Estates and Facilities Management at the University of Sheffield said: “I am very proud of The Diamond building development.


Twelve Architects has worked tirelessly to bring forward what I believe is both a fantastic addition to the University estate and Higher Education as a whole. Twelve has interpreted our vision and taken the final scheme even further than we had hoped, providing a truly world class facility to compliment the excellence of the University’s academic endeavour. The Diamond is a truly inspiring building and it’s already clear that it’s proving a major attraction.”

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    The Diamond at The University of Sheffield was completed in September 2015, it is the largest capital investment in teaching and learning ever undertaken by the University. It makes a major contribution to the University’s ambition to develop and expand its Faculty of Engineering with world-class facilities for students and academics. Designed by Twelve Architects*, the building is named The Diamond after its unique façade. It is a 19,500m2 facility, housing specialist engineering...

    Project details
    • Year 2015
    • Work finished in 2015
    • Status Completed works
    • Type Schools/Institutes / Colleges & Universities
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