Nottingham Civic Society

caring for the city

The New Sustainable Research Building,
The School of the Built Environment,
The University of Nottingham

The brief was for a 3-storey 1300m2 building, which provided the following accommodation:

• studio space on the fi rst and second floor levels
• ground floor research and laboratory space
• a working flat roof research area
• offices for the Institute of Sustainable Energy Technology
• a new 150 seat lecture room
• ancillary toilet and storage space

A building budget, (excluding VAT, loose furniture and fees), of £1.6 million was jointly funded by a SRIF bid and the University of Nottingham.


A demanding budget for a building with a high provision of laboratory space, meant that from the outset the building form had to be both efficient and disciplined. Simple interlocking rectangular volumes were therefore established early on, with the dimensions of the body of the building being derived from a single studio working space. These were then translated into exact brick dimensions.

Placed within a mature landscape setting, the building encloses the third side of a ‘lawned’ court. An existing brick Victorian garden wall is ‘continued’ and used to wrap and set out the building at ground level before marking the entrance(s) with full height fl ourishes. Deliberately kept light and open in nature, the building allows the mature landscape not only to be seen through but also to pass by the building.

The main body is predominantly glazed at first and second floor levels offering a real sense of contact with the landscape both near and far. The building also constantly and subtly changes in appearance as the glass continuously plays with reflections and the changing light cast by the sky and fi ltered by the trees. At night the building really comes alive. The main entrance is approached from under the canopy of trees passing by the ‘headless statue’ and then from under the canopy of the building. The first flight of stairs is deliberately kept heavy and set between concrete walls. A corner window on the second quarter landing allows a glance back to the statue. The access 16 between floors then moves to the glazed façade of the building and a ‘light’ steel and timber stair that flies within the triple height entrance hall towards to the light and views.

Made with glass, brick, steel and concrete the building’s finishes internally are predominantly fairfaced. Large timber framed windows have been detailed so that they seem to fl oat or hang within the glass wall.


The selection of materials for the building was driven by a desire to resource these within 35 miles of the site wherever possible. The following list shows what was achieved:

In addition Larch was the main wood selected for use in the building. The Larch was sourced from a small estate on the Borders of Scotland. The narrow plan allows for cross-ventilation and daylight. However due to the proximity of the building to the tree line, this has been supplemented by 8 light and ventilation wells fi nishing above roof level as glass lanterns.

The use of massive construction allows the diurnal internal temperatures to be controlled and combined with an under fl oor heating system which serves the main spaces.

The rainwater from the roof is recycled back into the building and used for flushing the toilets.




Excavated material

Reused on site or relocated on the
University Campus


Hardcore fill

Reused from demolished buildings on the University Campus


Insitu concrete

Batched and mixed Dunkirk, Nottingham



Ibstock, Leicester


Pre-cast concrete planks



Terracotta tiles

Swadlincote, Derbyshire


Panablok panels



Lift installation

90% of lift British made and brought together in Loughborough


Glass Supplier



Solar thermal and photovoltaic panels are to be fi xed to the roof structure shortly and will be used to supplement the building’s thermal and electrical requirements. This strategy is assisted by the use of two gas fi red combined heat and power units.

The building has an indicative BREEAM rating of excellent and the thermal performance of the envelope exceeds the requirements of the current building regulations.

The building is designed to act as a test bed for new and renewable technologies. The flat roof serves as a test platform for solar systems and sections of the façade can be removed and replaced with innovative envelope systems. The building and its occupants serve as a means of operating new technologies under realistic operating conditions and obtaining user feedback on their performance.


Architects: David Short Associates with Richard Havenhand and Gregg Wilson

Client: Estates Offi ce, The University of Nottingham

Structural Engineer: Price & Myers (Nottingham)

Quantity Surveyor & Planning Supervisor: WT Partnership (Nottingham)

Mechanical & Electrical Consultants: DH Squire Consulting Engineers

Sustainability: The School of the Built Environment, The University of Nottingham

Main Contractor: Loach Construction

David Short, David Short Associates