The iconic new home for Coventry University’s Faculty of Engineering and Computing is central to promoting and utilising Activity Led Learning which the University see as the way forward for 21st century graduates. This new method of educating students equips them with the skills employers want and is designed to give them problem solving experience against real deadlines.
Paul Ivey, dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Computing, said:
“I am delighted to have this new home for the Faculty. Our students can look forward to advanced, innovative education, informed by the latest research and driven by the need of employers”.
The Client required a building that would be forward looking, with a completely fresh approach to organising spaces to best support the new ways of learning.
The 15000m2 building integrates education, industry and research; providing a high performance engineering centre with flight simulators and engine test cells; a high precision wind tunnel testing facility; two lecture theatres sub divisible for conferencing; collaborative classrooms for 4000 students, including IT workspaces; communal interactive spaces with learning booths; and integrated academic offices; all linked to a ‘state of the art’ communications backbone.
The site forms the south-eastern periphery of the University's City Centre Campus, which spreads from a north-westerly desire line. Remains of the Mediaeval City Wall lie on the southern boundary with residential areas beyond. The former Whitefriars Priory and surrounding green space lie to the west, and potential future University Masterplan development to the east.
Thus a massing approach was adopted which defines a sheltered square as the termination of the University Campus axis, with a taller building to the north and east reflecting city scale, and a lower building in the south and west reflecting residential scale. The buildings around the square have a clear orientation in relation to the sun’s path; this, together with their environmental and ecological context, and the diverse functional content of the accommodation, was used to lead the design concept development.
The design is for an open and accessible flagship building, and is intended to be a littoral representation of the factors influencing design, so that in itself it can be used as a living tool for teaching students.
The duality of Science and Nature is represented by the two blocks around a square. The southern Nature block is a one to four storey building that is conceptually a raised ground plane extending from the green space to the west. In counterpoint, the four to seven storey Science block occupies the northern part of the site and offers the main window into the Faculty.
Central to achieving the conceptual and educational aims is the incorporation of the Interactive Zone, which sits behind the front window, acting as a didactic skin, informing the activity within. This zone contains the circulation and breakout spaces, offers the public face of the building, and is at the heart of the teaching, as well as being a central feature of structural and environmental function.
A simple palette of materials has been adopted throughout the buildings interiors, allowing the structure and services of the building to be largely exposed to provide a learning tool to the students.
The Science block facades are formed from a lightweight timber grid, onto which insulated panels with an profiled anodised aluminium surface are fixed. These panels form an interlocking hexagonal pattern with opening windows shaded by aluminium hoods.
A simple, economic, and buildable structural form, which was adaptable in its response to the diverse layout and functional requirements, was afforded by employing reinforced concrete frame construction; arranged to facilitate safe and robust construction.
Robust sustainability strategies have been integrated into all aspects of the building:
Natural ventilation is used in the atrium and academic offices, with mixed-mode ventilation in lecture rooms and IT laboratories.
Heat is recovered from computer server rooms and used to generate domestic hot water.
Rainwater is harvested from the building roof and courtyard.
The façade and window framing system is constructed from FSC certified timber. Over 90% of the external walls, windows and 100% of internal drylined walls are made from ‘A’ rated materials.
The façade has an average U-value and air tightness 50% better than the minimum value required by part L.
Exposed concrete soffits are cooled using night-time trickle ventilation.
The building has been solar orientated, and includes shading hoods protecting southern facing windows,with optimised inclination for the future installation/application of solar technology.
The building has two renewable energy systems; a biomass boiler and anevacuated-tube solar hot water system. These reduce the Carbon footprint by over 10%;.
The ‘Nature Block’ intensive green roof provides a mix of ecological communities to enhance the site’s biodiversity.
Awarded BREEAM Excellent certification.
Awarded an Energy Performance Asset Rating B.
Procurement and Construction
Early site works packages were carried out during 2009, including demolitions, archaeological excavation, electrical substation relocation, services diversions, bulk excavations, and site cappings and protections.
Advantage was taken during this period to develop the design and market test optional main contract procurement '>http://approaches.The'>
competitiveness of a Design and Build Contract offered the client the option of adding an extra 1000m2 of accommodation within his original construction budget.
Site start was in June 2010 followed by a 90 week Design & Build Contract, building fitting out works, and opening on time and in budget for the autumn academic term 2012.