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Building economy: Architect's account

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building study; Loughborough University's new business school and economics building, designed by Ahrends Burton & Koralek, respects and completes the existing campus architecture, yet distinguishes itself in its architectural expression


Ahrends Burton Koralek

The site for the business school and economics building at Loughborough University is prominent, providing an opportunity for a landmark building visible from the adjacent public road, and on entry to the campus. The sports fields next to the site give a wonderful outlook and a lasting impression of the 'big sky' and 'big earth'. The expansiveness of this side contrasts with the more contained feeling of the approach side. The many fine existing trees and the university's wildlife strategy led to landscape proposals incorporating additional planting and new trees.

We worked with the university to develop the brief, arriving at a plan which achieved the following:

one building with common entry to three identifiable elements: business school, management development centre, and economics

strong form to the important north-east aspect

diagonal relation of open space to residential halls forecourt

the landscaped parking area to the south west echoes the road alignment while improving the sight lines

entry to the building from both parking and pedestrianised landscaped area.

Various procurement routes were discussed and, largely driven by the need for cost certainty and single-point responsibility, a design-and- build route was chosen. The original intention had been to novate the design team after stage C, but after discussion it was agreed that this would occur after stage D and definition of design intent for key details.

In order to maximise opportunities for contractor input, a two-stage tender process was used, firstly to select a contractor and then to provide a period of 14 weeks of design development before agreeing the contract.

The external wall is highly insulated - its polymer-based rendered drywall construction with individual windows relates to a pattern of potential cellular office accommodation. The roof is in a radial long-plank standing- seam aluminium system. On the southerly sides the building has a landscape bank to window level expressing embededness in the earth. Over the top storey the extended roof hovers, becoming louvered at the eaves, softening the profile against the sky.

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