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FIRST LOOK

Penoyre & Prasad completes 8,000m² hub for the University of Kent

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The ‘W’ shape of the £26 million Sibson Building allows the building to expand or contract over time

Set within woodland on the northern edge of the campus, this new building comprises interactive social learning areas, teaching environments, academic workspace and open plan research space.

01 sibsonbuilding uni of kent penoyreprasad woodland reflection quintin lake

01 sibsonbuilding uni of kent penoyreprasad woodland reflection quintin lake

Source: Quintin Lake

Originally envisaged by the university as three linked but separate buildings, Penoyre & Prasad’s design brought the schools together into a single whole: an interconnected hub, with shared learning and teaching at its heart. This is designed to create an enriched learning environment to foster interaction and synergies between the two schools.

In plan, the Kent Business School is located at one end and the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Actuarial Science at the other end of a flexible ‘W’ shape, which allows for expansion or contraction over time. The open corners of the plan are for research and knowledge exchange and are supported at each level by a tapering concrete ‘hand’ that provides the longer spans required for the lecture theatres below.

01 sibsonbuilding uni of kent penoyreprasad concourse atrium quintin lake

01 sibsonbuilding uni of kent penoyreprasad concourse atrium quintin lake

While the Sibson Building is the largest academic building built since the founding of the university in the 1960s, its overall layout, massing, and external and internal treatment is designed to resonate with its woodland setting rather than dominate it. The building is carefully sited among existing mature trees and coppiced woods so its overall size is never fully visible from any one viewpoint, and its coloured aluminium fins reflect the changing light and movement of the foliage. Internally, there are extensive views out to this forested setting for students and staff. 

Passive measures of natural ventilation, roof-mounted PVs, long structural spans and raised access floors all contributed to the building’s BREEAM Excellent rating.

01 sibsonbuilding uni of kent penoyreprasad double height social learning quintin lake

01 sibsonbuilding uni of kent penoyreprasad double height social learning quintin lake

Source: Quintin Lake

Architect’s view

The challenge of locating a large new academic hub in this woodland setting, without destroying the site’s intrinsic beauty, intrigued us from the start. Here the forest was our muse. Beyond obvious initial moves, such as retaining the majority of mature trees, we set about analysing the different ways in which the building would be experienced - glimpsed through foliage, viewed below the tree canopy, and from its various approaches - and allowed this to shape the overall form and architectural language.

Excellent team dynamics between all members of the project and construction team led to minimised site impact during construction and a very high quality end product.

Ian Goodfellow, partner, Penoyre & Prasad

Sibson gf penoyreprasad copy

Sibson gf penoyreprasad copy

Source: Penoyre & Prasad

Ground floor plan

Project data

Start on site June 2015
Completion January 2017
Gross internal floor area 8,200m²
Form of contract or procurement route Design & Build, novated for Stages F-L
Construction cost £26 million
Construction cost per m² £3,170
Client University of Kent 
Architect Penoyre & Prasad
Structural engineer Price & Myers
M&E consultant Max Fordham
QS Betteridge & Milsom
BREEAM consultant Southfacing
Landscape consultant Fabrik
Acoustic consultant Max Fordham
Project manager BNP Paribas Real Estate
CDM coordinator Betteridge & Milsom
Approved building inspector Harwood Building Control Approved Inspectors
Main contractor Willmott Dixon Construction
CAD software used ArchiCAD
Annual CO2 emissions (as-Built Building Emission rate from BRUKL) 13.9kg/m²

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