Built for the minds of tomorrow

We've delivered three distinctly diverse projects for The University of Birmingham; from converting a disused library into vibrant office space to restoring a theatre to its former glory, and finally, developing state-of-the-art research facilities.

Transforming a disused basement library into a brand-new inspirational shared space for students.

The University of Birmingham wanted to breathe new life into their redundant basement library to create new offices, breakout spaces and a café for staff. The challenge — with a tight due-date, all work needed to be completed by the start of term, a turnaround time of just 11 weeks.

We started the project by refurbishing the old split level ground floor library to create new offices, focused around a centralised breakout and alternate-working area. This created an incredible sense of space, with double-height ceilings being overlooked from the first-floor mezzanine.

We took down sections of the old curtain walls and replaced them with doors to the adjoining courtyard garden, allowing staff to access the outdoors through the breakout space.

This also allows an abundance of light to flow through to the double-height atrium space. Wood trimming was then used to soften the exposed concrete throughout the space, providing a modern and natural twist on the building's exposed concrete and brutalist origins.

Creating a social scene

The new shared social space features built-in seating along with tables and chairs to enhance the versatility and capacity of the space. Wooden partitioning was used to divide the space and create a sense of intimacy, yet retain the open-plan feel. Bespoke joinery was provided throughout the rest of the fit out, with a new reception desk, feature screens and, of course, a new kitchen for the adjoining café.

The new facilities provide a modern working and meeting space for staff, creating a real social heart for the University's Education Faculty.

The Debating Hall refurb

The Guild of Students’ building dates back to 1930 and retains a charm reminiscent of the era. The 90-year-old Debating Hall has an impressive 11-meter-high vaulted ceiling supported by dark timber frames and ornate beams.

We worked alongside Associated Architects, Hoare-Lea and Currie Brown, to deliver a historically sensitive and sustainable solution for the University. The overriding objective was to ensure the theatrical space accommodated students’ needs while maintaining the original building’s charm and heritage.

We organised a full strip-out and refurbishment of the debating hall prior to the start of the academic year.

The main act

Over a 10-week period, our team undertook a full strip-out, refurbishment and redecoration of the performance space. We removed and replaced the stage and stage wing platforms and provided new curtains, blinds and furniture.

The backbone of the project involved a full technical upgrade of stage, LED and emergency lighting and backstage and balcony blue lights.

Essential collaboration with multiple stakeholders ensured a smooth-running project with minimal downtime and operational interference. This, in turn, resulted in the delivery of a diverse and flexible range of space requirements for the end-users.

The size and imposing height of the hall required us to install a complex three-tier scaffolding solution which spanned the width of the room, allowing work to proceed safely and efficiently.

The project was delivered within the tightly specified time period before the students returned after the summer break to their newly refurbished home.

Institute of biomedical research

The University of Birmingham invested in a significant refit and refurbishment of the Institute of Biomedical Research (IBR). The aim was to create a modern, vibrant ground floor facility in keeping with its status as a nationally renowned medical research centre.

Our team was part of a strong multidisciplinary alliance with Stride Treglown, Arup and RLF. Building Information Modelling (BIM) helped us maximise our collaboration and the project’s efficiency across all phases.

Throughout the 38-week operation, we maintained clear communication channels with a multitude of stakeholders to ensure their wide-ranging requirements were supported.

Cutting-edge facilities

Within the laboratories, we installed instrument benching and fume cabinets and created a virus room and a cold-storage room. The overhead laboratory lockers provide secure but highly visible storage solutions and personal hygiene facilities were integral to the new layout.

Acoustics and lighting were important considerations, with the linear lighting improving the ability to perform flexible tasks in the multi-purpose space.

There were diverse requirements across the full mechanical and electrical range, including a completely new ceiling. Our installations involved: cabling and wiring for IT solutions, the provision of fire alarm and CCTV security systems, and in the laboratories, temperature control and gas service provision.

The offices, break-out areas and small kitchen contribute to the openness of the space, with glass wall panels which deliver a sense of spaciousness and inclusion. Secure and sizeable storage was installed along brightly coloured walkways, denoting distinct areas.

We also installed a reception area, replaced the external doors and windows, fitted new carpets and blinds and added outside signage.

Sustainably focused

Throughout the project, we gave the utmost consideration to environmental measures to reduce the impact of the operation and enhance future sustainability.

Even a family of young hedgehogs found onsite were provided safe lodgings until they were able to return after works were completed. Such attention to detail resulted in the project being awarded the highest possible Gold Standard SKA rating.

During the works, the busy campus and upper floors of the Biomedical wing continued to operate and despite the associated challenges, the team was proud to also score highly within the Considerate Contractors scheme.

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