University of Exeter Forum

  • University of Exeter Forum glass facade and stairs
  • University of Exeter Forum lecture hall
  • University of Exeter Forum outside steps
  • University of Exeter Forum parade
  • University of Exeter Forum roof

1 / Introduction

Designed around the theme of assembly and open debate, the Forum is a central part of the University of Exeter’s campus. The Forum Project saw several structures built or refurbished and enclosed under a stunning gridshell roof. As well as unifying these buildings and hosting a dramatic new reception, the roof shelters a range of state of the art teaching and discussion spaces.


Key facts

  • State of the art development for Exeter University’s campus
  • Forum connects several facilities under an extensive curved gridshell roof
  • 2409 m3 - or 4,241,197 pints - of concrete poured during project

The Project Details

  • Client:
    University of Exeter
  • Architect:
    Wilkinson Eyre
  • BuroHappold services:
    Building services engineering, structural engineering, civil engineering, fire engineering, ground engineering, infrastructure, sustainable design, security consultation, acoustic engineering, inclusive design, SMART solutions, people movement

2 / Challenge

As a central feature of the Forum, the vision for the roof was to create an enclosed street that links all of the facilities, while offering an outstanding environment for learning, teaching and research.

A key challenge at Exeter Forum was the need to design a campus that was as sustainable as possible. The client set our design teams very tough targets: to beat Part L energy guideline figures by 10% and to achieve 10% renewable energy onsite, with the aim to achieve the sought-after BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating on completion.

3 / Solution

Due to the size and scale of the roof, and the need for it to allow lots of daylight into the space, it was vital to ensure that the internal spaces were not adversely affected by the conditions outside. Our acoustics team undertook cutting edge analysis to study the noise levels of rain on the roof, developing a digital auralisation for the client and architect to show the results and demonstrate our solutions. The work by our specialists led to the roof design being modified to use a combination of timber panels, ETFE and glass to offer an inspirational education environment.

To achieve the challenging environmental targets our sustainable design team worked closely with the architects to maximise the use of natural daylight and ventilation, thermal mass, earth tubes and ground source heat pumps (GSHPs). The GSHPs will reduce the amount of CO2 per KWh of delivered heat by 45% in comparison to a traditional gas condensing boiler.

4 / Value

Our sustainable solutions overall are set to achieve an impressive 16% improvement on the client’s targets, and the project is on course for the all important BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating.

Our approach to the project reflects the very essence of what the Forum sets out to achieve. Every one of the 15 BuroHappold teams working on the project have provided essential input to ensure the client’s vision for a spectacular, ground breaking and highly sustainable campus building.