The University of Exeter’s stunning new development, the Forum, has been opened by her Majesty the Queen as part of her UK Diamond Jubilee Tour.
The project provides a social and academic focus for the green and picturesque campus as well as a formal reception building, and unites a series of disparate buildings to form a development which will be the envy of universities around the world.
Multidisciplinary engineering consultancy Buro Happold supported Wilkinson Eyre Architects throughout the demanding and rigorous design competition in 2008 to develop a scheme that would deliver a sustainable heart to the campus. The scheme includes a cultural hub, new lecture and seminar spaces, student services facilities, a series of unique ‘learning labs’ and an extensive refurbishment of the university’s thirty year old Library. An added challenge was that the site levels varying by over fifteen metres.
The centrepiece of the scheme is the new internal ‘Street’ which uses timber gridshell structural roof forms to provide a breathtaking space which can be used for a variety of informal and formal functions. Its roof was modelled using Buro Happold’s unique form-finding software to maximise structural efficiency and extensive daylighting analysis was undertaken to ensure that a truly inspirational space was created which promises to attract even more students and staff to this rapidly expanding university, which has been invited to join the prestigious Russell Group.
Sustainability was one of the key drivers for the client, and the development reflects the commitment made through the competition, with the project on course to achieve BREEAM Excellent status. Key elements of this include the implementation of integrated water and energy strategies, which included uniting new and existing buildings with new heating and cooling district energy systems and the use of earth tubes to reduce energy consumption. The class leading environmental design also built on the consultancy’s extensive experience of creating award winning teaching and learning spaces.
Buro Happold also carried out detailed people flow studies to define the most efficient layout for the Forum’s new circulation scheme, focusing on the smooth passage of students and staff throughout. The consultancy which is renowned for its innovative approach to people movement, studied issues such as safety and comfort during horizontal and vertical circulation as well as at assembly points adjacent to the lecture hall and auditorium entrances.
Looking at options for additional valuable revenue and social resources for the University, Buro Happold used acoustic modelling and auralisation techniques to demonstrate to the client what effect loud events in the Great Hall would have on the rest of the scheme. The results compiled showed that the Forum and Library would not be unduly affected by events such as music concerts – a possible option in the future.
Buro Happold was involved in extensive briefing and exploration of design ideas with a wide range of stakeholders at the University. Mike Entwisle, Director for Building Services commented, “Engaging stakeholders has really enabled us to deliver our best across all aspects of the development. We look forward to this outstanding project, one of the jewels of the West, playing its part in enhancing Exeter’s excellent reputation for teaching and research in the coming years.”
Stafford Critchlow, Director of Wilkinson Eyre Architects said: “The Forum building will help to cement the reputation of the University of Exeter in this period of intense change for the Higher Education sector. In addition to an excellent education, British universities have begun to trade on the broader experience they can offer students. With this major investment in both buildings and landscape, Exeter has put itself ahead of the competition.”
Client: University of Exeter
Architect: Wilkinson Eyre Architects
Buro Happold services: Structural, building services, ground, water, fire and sustainability engineering, infrastructure, IT, crowd flow modelling, transport planning, environment, security consultation, acoustics, inclusive design