Creating a leading research facility for the University of Birmingham
- Specialist research facility
- Collaboration between the University and businesses
- Building includes anechoic chamber for specialist experiments
The new School of Engineering is part of the transformational redevelopment of the University of Birmingham, and our sixth project for the university in four years. During November 2020, the first phase of the School of Engineering has handed over, creating a state-of-the-art Centre of Excellence for Digital Systems.
The new building is now home to specialist research into digital railway engineering, focusing on railway control and simulation, data integration, cyber security, condition monitoring and sensing, and improved methods for technology introduction.
The basement houses a train cab and a hydrogen-powered train track and part of the building is leased out to a consortium of railway specialists – UKRRIN (UKRRIN Rail Research and Innovation Network) to conduct research and testing. This collaboration and sharing of research between the University and industry provides real innovation for the future.
The building has been designed with open plan spaces and cellular facilities to encourage agile and collaborative working between academics, researchers, students and staff.
All the engineering within the building itself is on show, with all structural elements visible. To fit in-line with the rail industry the cladding has been designed to have the same visual impact as railway lines and track signalling; the half brick, half cladding exterior will give a solid and heavy visual impact!
The building also features an anechoic chamber - a high-specification room with no electrical interference, lined with compounds to absorb frequencies.
After handing over the first phase in November 2020, Nick Gibb, deputy managing director for the Midlands at Willmott Dixon, said:
"We are delighted to have led the development of such a significant resource, both regionally and within the sector – the facility is set to pioneer advancements within engineering and digital systems research.
“Despite completing the final stages of the project during the Covid-19 pandemic, our teams optimised industry-leading safety and social distancing measures, which meant we were able to remain on-site during the pandemic and ultimately deliver this phase of the project on time.
“This development is the third major partnership we have entered into with the University of Birmingham, having recently completed the Teaching and Learning Building, along with the Green Heart campus development. We look forward to completing the second and final stage of the School of Engineering project in early 2021.”
As with all Willmott Dixon projects our team will be involving the local community and promoting STEM and the value of engineering to businesses. There will be opportunities for work placements and work experience among many other community activities.
Daniel Holmes, senior project manager said:
"This new building represents a celebration of engineering and will be a centrepiece of our new engineering hub. The ongoing collaborative relationship that we have with Willmott Dixon, along with the quality of delivery of their completed projects, gives us significant confidence that they will deliver this landmark building."
“The School of Engineering has been designed, and will be delivered, with collaboration between the University and industry at its heart, enabling research and teaching excellence to be celebrated and showcased.”
Bringing together academia and industry
A key outcome of the project for the University was bringing together academia and industry. Find out how the project did this below:
Working Safely During Covid-19
Nick Proverbs is the senior operations manager on the School of Engineering project for University of Birmingham - explains how a combination of technology and innovation enabled us to maintain safe work practices throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, click here to read our most recent blog on the project.
Purpose beyond profit
As part of our commitment to leaving a legacy in the local community, we ran our Enrichment Programme in partnership with the University of Birmingham School for year 8 pupils. The programme was created to broaden pupils’ understanding of career opportunities whilst giving them opportunities to develop their character virtues – you can read more here from our community manager in the Midlands, Marie Wilkes.
We’ve also facilitated 157 student visits to site, hosted 71 work experience weeks with local people and enabled 202 weeks of ‘on site’ apprenticeship training.