Collaborative Teaching Laboratory, University of Birmingham
Inspirational building supporting delivery of science and research
The Collaborative Teaching Laboratory at the University of Birmingham is entered at the first floor. Credit: Nick Hufton
West Midlands RIBA Regional Award 2019
Sheppard Robson for University of Birmingham
Contract value: £25m
Cost per m²: £3,731
An inspirational university building where the architecture supports and improves the delivery of research and science courses, say this year’s judges. It also facilitates collaboration between departments that had previously operated independently of each other. The building is a simple diagram of three floors of stacked ‘super’ laboratories with plant on the high levels and a triple-height foyer to the front. The sloping site allows the entrance to be at first floor level where its distinctive inclined fins help shade the southern elevation and create a landmark on one of the main routes through the campus.
The internal layout is represented in the external massing with the large ‘wet’ lab expressed as a gold shingle box. The ‘dry’ and ‘e-labs’ are expressed via bespoke trapezoidal windows that have been parametrically designed to maximise daylight penetration into the plan.
Overall, the brief is complicated but the rigour to which it has been distilled and tested makes the end result exceptionally simple. The architect has rethought how such spaces operate to improve efficiency, allowing more lab time for the students of the 14 engineering departments involved. What’s more, for a building with such high energy usage, the scheme has achieved a BREEAM Excellent rating through a raft of integrated design decisions including heat recovery, high levels of airtightness, photovoltaic panels and linking to the university’s district heating CHP system.
Regional Building of the Year
Regional Project Architect of the Year: Alex Smith