Urban Science Building, Newcastle

Urban Science Building, Newcastle

Location: Newcastle
Value: £43.6m

Completion Date: August 2017

Contract Period: 86 weeks

Science Central is North East England’s new landmark location for science, business, living and leisure. Once supporting a colliery and then a brewery (The original home of Newcastle Brown Ale) the site spans 24 acres of prime City-Centre development land in the heart of Newcastle upon Tyne. The area is currently being transformed to support a thriving community, rewarding jobs and ground breaking scientific advances that will be the foundation of a new generation of industries and endeavours centred on knowledge and innovation.

The Urban Sciences Building (USB) is the second building on the Science Central site, and from initial planning it will provide the University with a major opportunity to make a step change in the way that its academic buildings are designed. The flexibility built into the design will provide the University with long-term agility to respond to societal and market changes and thus improve financial sustainability. The design of the building as an experimental ‘laboratory’ will help deliver inter-disciplinary high quality research, novelty and excitement and will make a substantial contribution to the Universities objectives in Research, Learning, Teaching and Engagement.

The USB is a state-of-the-art facility created to accommodate an Institute for Sustainability and Computing Science, amongst others, the facility will combine cutting-edge architecture with new public spaces, world-renowned scientific expertise and will be an innovation hub where investors, businesses, entrepreneurs, students, scientists and citizens collaborate to plan and develop solutions for tomorrow’s cities. The building and its surrounding city area will become a living laboratory underpinning research to make urban centres more sustainable for future generations.

The building will provide between 12,500 – 13,500m2 of teaching, research and forum space, ranging from open plan office and teaching accommodation, to lecture theatre spaces and cellular offices, as well as workshops / laboratories, with associated administration, meeting, breakout and collaborative spaces. USB also has public café and atrium spaces with access to viewing rooms such as the Decision Theatre, a facility that enables advanced data visualisation so that policy makers and other stakeholders can plan and operate cities sustainably.

A Living Stair is central to accessing the upper floors from the atrium space, whereby the staircase is designed to not only be an access route to the upper floors, but also a space for breakout groups, sitting and socialising. This is supported with circulation areas with additional breakout and study spaces overlooking the atrium and Living Stair ensuring that circulation spaces are also usable, active areas.
The principle structure is concrete frame with flat slabs over a piled foundation. Externally the proposed Façade is frameless and will be flush to achieve unity across the external elevations. There are four different panel types:

  • Transparent double glazing (with and without opening windows).
  • Solid panels, composed of glazing, panelling or back painted glass behind, rigid insulation and internal linings.
  • Solid panels composed of etched metallic anodised aluminium panels.
  • Vent panels to allow fresh air into the decentralised plant spaces. These are composed from perforated patterned metallic anodised aluminium panels. Fire protected ductwork and dampers will be needed behind these on the north facade for fire protection.

Patterning used across the glass, is digitally printed and reflects the history of the site, noting the site’s history as a colliery and brewery but also reflecting the new purpose of the site, using computing methods to create the punch card effect.

The artwork spanning the main, south façade, is based on the client’s website and internet connectivity, which hints at the main tenant of the building being the Newcastle University’s School of Computing Science.

The USB is designed as a research and Building as a Lab facility, whereby the building itself is producing data that can support research and enhance future developments. One significant area of research and development is around the sustainability of the building and Sustainable Design Principles. The following give an indication of how sustainability is embedded in the design principles, ranging from development site-wide Masterplans through to providing the ability to monitor and manage energy and water flow and consumption:

  • Currently on target to achieve a BREEAM Excellent score
  • Running simultaneously with the University led Bespoke Sustainability Framework
  • Building as a Lab principles for the operational management and research
  • Measuring embodied carbon of materials used
  • CEEQUAL ‘Very Good’ achieved
  • A green roof is installed spanning across the atrium roof
  • Sustainable Drainage Systems installed – swale, an ensemble of SuDS and Lysimeters (all providing sustainable drainage and research facilities)
  • PV and PVt installed on suitable roof spaces.
  • Glulam used in conjunction with concrete and steel
  • Metering far exceeding typical criteria in order to support Building as a Lab intentions and research

Further points are explored below, where the M&E aspects of the job are far more advanced and technical than on a typical build.

Environmental Features

The Urban Sciences Building is designed to incorporate a number of environmental features and will be supported throughout the construction program with sustainability embedded throughout, as reflected by following BREEAM construction guidance and exceeding these requirements with the bespoke Sustainability Framework, designed specifically to drive sustainability beyond BREEAM with an auditable approach to developing sustainability targets during construction and when occupied.

Within the BREEAM framework measures are being taken to ensure that the ecology and biodiversity will not be detrimentally effected, and where feasible, will be improved. Prior to development this was a brownfield site stripped of any notable ecology or biodiversity and the USB will incorporate green roof spaces as well as green SuDS around the plot, new hard and soft landscaping.

The SuDS work is significant and provides:

  • Full scale SUDS demonstrators;
  • Full scale experimental swale that can test attenuation of Natural Flood Management measures such as ‘leaky barriers’ during simulated heavy rainfall events;
  • A set of large scale, modular, green infrastructure experimental facilities (lysimeters);
  • Laboratory space inside the Urban Sciences Building (USB); and,
  • Comprehensive monitoring through the Newcastle Urban Observatory that can be linked to water monitoring within the USB, performance of site-wide SUDS and Green infrastructure and to city-wide observations of hydrological processes.

This facility and the wider site will provide the space needed to research and demonstrate a number of key water issues that are vital to urban sustainability.

Renewable & Low Energy Features

The Urban Science Building has been designed as an energy efficient building and is effectively split in 3 zones, each with a heating and chilled energy loop serving each zone to maximise efficiency of the building through a series of 25 plant rooms.

Using heat pump technology and twin energy loops in each zone allows for maximum redistribution of heating and cooling around the building to optimise energy efficiency and reduce gas usage.

Night cooling is also a feature via natural ventilators in the building façade and free cooling can be achieved during certain periods via the dry air coolers.

In addition to the above the building also benefits from PV, generating around 29kW and also has a PVT system to generate hot water.

All of the above elements are controlled by a Siemens Desigo CC control system and a KNX system of sensors for CO2 and temperature. This system has all the normal benefits of a BMS system with optimum start, set back when the room is unoccupied as well as additional features such as shutting down the system during holiday periods and a dynamic intelligent system which will learn as it controls to achieve optimum plant conditions.

As an added benefit, the KNX loop also controls the lighting system with a series of occupancy sensors to achieve dimming control via Dali ballasts within the lighting.

In addition to the 25 plant rooms, where the building really differs from any standard building is the fact that the whole building is a laboratory and has several key features which allows the operation of the building to be scrutinised by academics with an overall view to enhance its performance.

These features are:

  • Micro-metering - A system to allow the monitoring of electricity for quality at 1 second intervals.
  • Super-efficient WC’s - A low water usage toilet is installed throughout the building which is metered to determine how much water can be saved using such devises.
  • Slab temp sensors - Slabs are inserted into the concrete slab in certain areas to gain an understanding of how the concrete mass of the building contributes to the overall building heating and cooling.
  • SUDS - A sustainable urban drainage system is installed to determine how the building and differing soil and plant types contribute to controlling storm water run-off.
  • Smart Grid - An area of the building has been dedicated to DC computing equipment and lighting to establish if this is more efficient than standard ac power and this is fed directly from the PVT system.

In summary, the building has been developed to allow for maximum flexibility. The services installation has capacity for numerous research areas and some of these include specific research on the PVT and also electric demand response, where locally generated and stored energy is used at specific peak times to eliminate peak time tariffs or even input into the national grid to supplement supply during high usage periods.

The Urban Science Building will be used to assist in the development of technologies for buildings in the future as we strive to reduce energy consumption within buildings.

Construction Waste and Landfill Diversion

During construction, a waste contractor was been appointed to collect general waste that is not segregated, to sort and segregate off site. As well as the benefit of requiring less site management and space, this also allows a much finer level of granularity to be achieved in waste monitoring and maximises the quantities of waste being recycled and diverted from landfill.

Where waste cannot be avoided, waste generated will be diverted from landfill through reuse, recycling, take back scheme or sent for energy recovery. Landfill avoidance rates of construction rates have exceeded 99% throughout the course of the project.

BIM, Programming and Lessons Learnt

As a Level 2 BIM project, advanced and coordinated modelling and reviews have been instrumental in identifying potential design and buildability issues at an early stage, allowing for early action to be taken to maintain and improve on the programme in some instances. Issues such as tolerance compatibilities between steel, concrete and glulam have been recognized through model reviews which have allowed for detailed redesign options to be explored with no impact to the construction programme.

Particular focus has been given to training staff on BIM Level 2 requirements and upskilling staff to understand the tools available to support BIM during construction, notably around modelling, COBie information, Common Data Environments and improving the quality of models and information. 2 BIM Champions have been developed through the project.

Following B&K led training to client staff, Newcastle Universities Estate Support Services Team stated that during their training on Navisworks, within minutes of being able to navigate round the model they were able to notice elements of the design they had not appreciated through the numerous design meetings and drawing reviews. This in itself gives us confidence of achieving the required BIM level 2 Delivery. It also highlights opportunities for strengthening client relationships and knowledge sharing.

Site staff have also supported a number of careers advice and industry based careers sessions to encourage higher education students to explore career paths in construction management, with notable focus on BIM and Sustainability.

This project has notably highlighted key lessons to be learned from implementing BIM standards from the outset,

  • The use of BIM to sequence building operations to reduce the need for rework in areas.
  • BIM provides an opportunity for improved relationships with clients and sub-contractors as best practice, knowledge and training sessions can be shared and learning cascaded up and down the supply chain.
  • BIM can be successful in delivering reliable and accurate asset management

Management of the design through modelling can provide greater understanding to client and sub-contractor staff