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Theme: education buildings

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Universities are discerning clients which understand that good architecture can help them achieve future goals. Architects need to learn from and listen to these clients to understand what universities are hoping to achieve and develop design solutions that meet their needs At one time the common image of research buildings in higher-education institutions was of pokey, remote laboratories where men in white coats played with Bunsen burners and strange-shaped glassware. This is no longer the case. A greater understanding of the way in which knowledge is created, combined with government initiatives to develop a 'knowledge economy' (see the 1998 government White Paper, 'Our Competitive Future - Building the Knowledge Driven Economy'; and the July 2000 government White Paper, 'Excellence and Opportunity - a science and innovation policy for the 21st Century') has changed the nature of research and research buildings.

Much has been borrowed from business environments for the design of research buildings. The exteriors of buildings now often make a statement about the activity occurring within, and, internally, offices, laboratories and social spaces are arranged to provide a secure environment in which knowledge can flourish. The similarity between business and university research buildings is even more obvious when the facility includes business-incubation units or business-resource centres. However, university research buildings are still specialist facilities, and quality design requires an understanding of the changes in the nature of research as well as careful briefing, specifi cation and validation in response to the user's particular needs.

Funding for research The UK government has a large influence on research and research buildings in highereducation institutions through the funding that it provides. There are three main funding streams for research and the development of the knowledge economy: for research projects, for university infrastructure and for regional infrastructure.

The Department of Trade and Industry's (DTI) Offi ce of Science and Technology (OST) distributes funds through seven UK Research Councils. The funds support specifi c research projects and research centres within institutes. The overall science budget for 2003-04 was ú2.245 billion.

University research infrastructure is supported by joint funding from the OST, Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and the Wellcome Trust through the Joint Infrastructure Fund (JIF) and Science and Research Investment Fund (SRIF). To date, more than ú1 billion of capital investment has been granted, with the second phase of SRIF funding (SRIF 2) planning to grant ú500 million per year for 2004-05 and 2005-06.

From a selection of government departments, principally the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) and the DTI, funds are channelled into a 'single pot' for each Regional Development Agency (RDA).

Funding is expected to reach ú2 billion a year by 2005-06. RDAs support research as a way of promoting development in their region. Some RDAs have identified and funded research clusters - groups of highprofile businesses and researchers in highereducation institutes - with the aim of creating closer links between these groups. RDAs can also apply to the Regional Innovation Fund for investment in projects promoting regional competitiveness, innovation and enterprise, which support business incubation and cluster development.

Even direct funding to universities is now dependent on the research profi le of the institution. The Higher Education Funding Council (HEFC) has targeted funding for academic departments based on their performance in the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), which is carried out every four to fi ve years. Ratings from 0 (no evidence of research) to 5* (research of international standing) are awarded to every academic department. Funding is then granted to universities, based on a formula that rewards the higher research performance. As a consequence, universities need to attract and retain top-fl ight researchers and are using high-quality facilities, comparable to those in commercial R&D departments, as a bargaining tool. The next Research Assessment Exercise is due in 2005-06 and construction projects on site now will have a major impact on the next round of funding.

Impact of Building Regulations Recent changes in the ODPM-produced Building Regulations, particularly Approved Documents L2 and M (ADL2 and ADM), have an impact on research buildings just as they impact on the design of other building types. The complexities of the energy calculations that are required to comply with ADL2 have encouraged FaulknerBrowns to invest in new Virtual Environment software from Integrated Environmental Solutions. We use this CAD package as a design tool to create detailed 3D models, including materials, of proposed designs that can then be assessed in terms of their energy usage (defi ned as mass of CO 2). By comparing energy-usage calculations over a full year with calculations for a notional building using the elemental method, we can demonstrate compliance with ADL2.

Architects have been designing to improve accessibility for many years, but on 1 May the new part M (ADM) regulations introduced significantly more detailed guidance. ADM will be further reinforced by the Disability Discrimination Act, which will come into force on 1 October. One major change is that the design of passenger lifts will become considerably more prescriptive. The government-sponsored publication 'A design guide for the use of colour and contrast to improve the built environment for visually impaired people' (Reading University, RNIB and ICI Paints) is a particularly useful guide.

Designing for 'knowledge creation' Research suggests that knowledge is created not in laboratories, but in and around private academic work areas and social interaction spaces. Laboratories are used to test the validity of ideas that have been generated elsewhere.

Offices should no longer be used to hide away behind a closed door. At Lancaster University's Infolab21, a world-class ICT research building due for completion in the summer of 2004, all the offices are fitted with double-glazed screens with integral blinds (by Komfort Offi ce Environments) to give individual control of visual privacy.

With the blinds open, academics can look out into 'club spaces' - small interaction areas around which the offi ces are clustered. Club spaces will be furnished with comfortable chairs to sit for a cup of good coffee and a chat, and meeting tables and whiteboards for more structured research discussions. All the furniture will move easily, allowing reconfiguration to suit changing demands.

In Infolab21, the club spaces are arranged along circulation routes. Along these routes, a subtle hierarchy of club spaces with varying degrees of privacy should encourage interaction on different levels - from semiprivate discussion between researchers and academics through to more public interaction in restaurants and coffee bars shared with students or business partners.

Designing for 'knowledge testing' Knowledge is tested in various environments, depending on the discipline and type of research. Bio-medical research requires specialist laboratories. ICT research requires highly serviced rooms. Ecological and social research is mostly conducted in the field, and therefore may only require a range of meeting rooms.

The Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC) at Lancaster University houses nearly 300 university and government researchers from disciplines across the natural and applied sciences, social sciences, management and engineering. They have a worldclass facility where they come together to give a unique insight into major environmental issues. The LEC contains many large laboratories, surrounded by clusters of specialist instrument or containment rooms.

This arrangement allow research teams to shrink or grow in line with funding, to share and interact with other research teams, and to remodel their laboratory as research methods and equipment change.

The LEC requires a range of specialist research spaces, not least of which are the dedicated growth rooms and glasshouses developed by Hartimax. These spaces are able to simulate a range of environments, from desert to rainforest to tundra conditions. The major design issues considered for these spaces include sun position and access. The glasshouses and growth rooms need to be close to primary laboratories yet not hidden from the sun. To allow for the potential to grow transgenic plants in these facilities, there needs to be a high level of containment and security.

Infolab21 presented a different challenge.

The major laboratories grouped on the lower ground fl oor are akin to highly serviced dealing fl oors, with laboratories close to machine and IT hub rooms. These laboratories are fi tted with a Propaflor raised access floor with a 900mm void, and a fully demountable metal-plank ceiling system by SAS International. These features 'future proof' the facility - providing flexibility for future IT infrastructure as well as catering to the specialist needs of some current technology research.

Upper levels contain eight-person computer research laboratories grouped near academic offi ces, and club spaces at the end of the building wings. This encourages interaction between and within research teams. Once again, raised access floors and demountable ceilings are used throughout to provide a high level of adaptable IT integration.

Designing for 'knowledge sharing' Knowledge can only help stimulate the economy if it is shared, both with students and with business partners. There is a trend towards incorporating both research and business incubation and support facilities within a single building, and universities are increasingly likely to locate these buildings on their campuses. The view is that 'spin off' businesses are more likely to occur if business partners and community members are brought into the university, rather than trying to encourage academics to work both in the university and in a business park.

The part-NWDA funded Centre for Leadership Excellence (CeLEX) in Lancaster University's management school, due to open in 2005, provides business research space, conference facilities and a business resource consultancy service. These complement the executive 'Harvard-style' lecture theatres - horse-shoe shaped theatres more suitable for seminar-type lectures - and 'break-out' areas to encourage knowledge sharing and business incubation.

Inviting more members of the public into buildings inevitably invites problems with security and controlling intellectual property. David Bullman, managing director of Foris Solutions, writes: 'Electronic access control solutions deliver the most effective balance in the provision of safety and security, but often the specification is left too late when cash is short, and that dictates decisions based purely on cost. Foris is a specialist company that designs, installs and maintains electronic systems to coordinate with existing door furniture. We can also arrange 'easy-pay' lease rental financial packages to ensure the most effective, and not the most affordable, system is installed.'

Designing for quality Universities are discovering that one way to attract and retain high-calibre research and business partners is to provide accommodation of a quality similar to that in the commercial R&D sector. Quality can be expressed in visual terms by using a striking design to make a statement about the work within; or it can be a technical design solution that enhances the working environment for the users. For example, the Lancaster management school requested that cafe areas have network access, and that break-out spaces have wireless networking facilities. The high environmental aspirations of the users ensured that a BREEAM rating of excellent was achieved for the new LEC buildings and InfoLab21.

Most new university buildings now have a true entrance, rather than the lowkey, 'back-door' entrances common to many existing buildings. The psychology department at the University of Newcastle gained a striking entrance when a new lecture theatre was placed on pods over the existing entrance. The interior was also remodelled to open up the reception. As an added advantage of this design solution, the lecture theatre required no valuable campus footprint.

High-quality materials including Tecu patina-copper cladding from KME UK, installed by Varla UK, and bronze windows supplied by Drawn Metal, are used as exterior highlights on Infolab21 to emphasise the world-class research aspirations of the researchers. These contrast with the Forticrete architectural masonry (Keith Walton Brickwork) and Technal trame horizontal and trame vertical double-glazed curtain walling (Airedale Glass).

Jonathan Bone is a director at FaulknerBrowns

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