University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Futures Institute project

Alastair Chisholm
A complex heritage building in Scotland’s historic capital and world heritage site… how will SNC-Lavalin's Faithful+Gould business help to transform this into a world-class interdisciplinary institute?

Vacant for 13 years, the derelict 1879 Old Royal Infirmary has strong emotive ties to the city of Edinburgh. Generations of medical students trained at the Grade A-listed heritage building, but it’s now facing an exciting new future as it becomes Edinburgh Futures Institute, a jewel in the University of Edinburgh’s redevelopment programme.

Faithful+Gould is appointed as multi-disciplinary consultants, directly responsible for lead consultancy, project management, health & safety, and design team services.  This includes leading the designers, structural engineers, cost managers, fire engineers and acousticians.

Our fundamental approach is to engender a positive team-working environment, ensuring that our sub-consultants achieve or exceed our client’s expectations.  Our team is therefore based in the University’s own offices, working closely with the University’s Estate Department along with our own wider University of Edinburgh delivery team of ten project managers working on a range of projects.  

The £80m Edinburgh Futures Institute project balances protection of the building’s heritage with the requirements of state-of-the-art facilities that focus on the potential and impact of big data and artificial intelligence on society.

The new design will promote collaborative working for academics and industry experts, yet the original building was designed for quite different priorities, with a layout based on principles promoted by Florence Nightingale to isolate the spread of disease. This presents a unique challenge for our team.

A rigorous programme of enabling works is now under way, uncovering the building’s secrets and revealing unexpected issues - we’re finding hidden rooms, structural movement, and fabric in significantly poorer condition than originally anticipated. These issues need to be addressed as early as possible to remove risk from the project. Demolition and interior strip-out works are in progress, removing the unwanted elements, ready for sensitive restoration.

Due to complete in 2021, the Edinburgh Futures Institute project forms part of a wider estates strategy programme, and is a great example of the way in which the University of Edinburgh values its heritage buildings and redesigns them for contemporary use.

We also provided the full design team for the Bayes Centre, the University’s state-of-the-art data innovation hub, where UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon recently signed the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal

Both projects demonstrate Faithful+Gould’s innovative work in the higher education sector. Our UK-wide experience includes working with 23 out of the 24 prestigious Russell Group universities, providing a range of services for detailed estate exploration and optimisation.

Written by