Science Comes to Life at University of Wolverhampton

Sammy Sidhu
University of Wolverhampton develop £25m Science Centre, following an industry call for graduates with skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

The Science Centre project provides new science facilities and labs for the Faculty of Science and Engineering at the University by redeveloping the former MB teaching building on City Campus. The five-storey building, which fronts onto Stafford Street, has been transformed into six storeys, providing more than six thousand square metres of state-of-the art facilities.

The centre re-opened in phases, with the first part opened in October 2014 and plans to be fully operational in 2015. Around 2,500 undergraduate and postgraduate students and 150 staff will benefit. An Out-Reach Laboratory faces onto Stafford Street where passing pedestrians can view experiments and teaching in action. As part of the plans, the George Hotel (formerly the Varsity pub) in the heart of Wolverhampton has been transformed into a gateway for advice and information about accessing higher education.

Faithful+Gould delivered project and cost management services to meet the challenges of the development. The challenge was to create an inspiring building within the University’s financial strategy, deliver it to a tight timescale, constructing on a constrained and busy site. A complex series of enabling projects had to be undertaken to accommodate teaching and office provision displaced as a consequence of the works.

For us, it was essential to engage not only with the University’s Estates Department and Heads of Schools, but also with lab technicians and students. This promoted a greater understanding of user-group needs and priorities, contributing to best value and schedule efficiency.

The team, led by Associate Director Simon Kendall, produced a masterplan which enabled the University to divide the project into meaningful sections, ready for a fast-track schedule. We then identified the most advantageous delivery vehicle, resulting in two separate enabling contracts being let under the NEC form of contract and the main build being let under a JCT design and build contract.

Delivering the innovative ICT strategy was another project and cost management challenge. In order to facilitate and support the delivery of an aspirational academic portfolio of courses, the University of Wolverhampton have implemented an exciting suite of leading-edge technologies in the Science Centre, including over 200 tablet PCs for students, wireless delivery of simultaneous multiple streams of high-definition video, lecture capture facilities, electronic laboratory notebook systems and laboratory information management systems. Faithful+Gould ensured that these aspirations remained affordable and, like all the building’s features, incorporated future-proofing flexibility.

The result is a superb science facility, designed to attract high calibre students and staff, encourage research funding, and provide the best student experience and workplace in a competitive academic marketplace. The STEM emphasis matches the region’s industrial and manufacturing heritage and the centre will help fuel further regeneration, contributing to creation of jobs and the future skilled workforce.

This is our second project for the University of Wolverhampton, following successful project management of the Performance Hub arts centre.