UWS, Hamilton

A variety of flexible space and acoustic solutions for a leading educational campus.

Rated as Scotland’s best modern university, the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) is an institution that’s on the rise. In recent years, UWS has invested heavily in the refurbishment of its Lanarkshire Campus in Hamilton.

Working with the fit out specialists SPACE incorporating haa design, and the contractor AKP, we helped turn this site, just south of Glasgow, into a world-class space for teaching and research.

Completed at a cost of £110m, the entire project and design theory places a great emphasis on the flexible use of space, which reflects the university’s philosophy of cocreated – or collaborative – learning.

This places it forefront of modern learning environments and has redefined just what a university campus can be in 2019.

Aware of our commitment to providing world-class workspaces, AKP had asked us to create a series of moving wall systems and acoustic solutions to be installed throughout the campus.

After working together on the designs, we were given the formal go ahead to start production and we were formally brought onboard to the project in early 2018, at a time when the campus was undergoing a Category B enhancement and Category C fit out.

The Lanarkshire campus consists of three buildings, Edzell, Dunlee and Carrick. All of them feature innovative learning suites that allow for pioneering teaching methods to be normalised. Central to this, was the use of flexible space.

In the Edzell Building, we were asked to provide two moving partition walls to divide two scientific working areas. The first set had to simply split one larger laboratory into two smaller ones, while the second set had to perform the same function but within a bustling workout lab that was to be kitted out with exercise equipment and workstations.

 

This meant that the acoustic integrity of the wall was an important consideration during the design phase. After consultation with the Creatif team, our Solo system was picked for both locations. With its acoustic properties, it was an obvious choice. Each set was finished in a drywipe, high-gloss MFC to allow staff and students to use the panels as additional writing areas – perfect for promoting flexible working while in the labs.

We also installed a series of Lineras in the Edzell and this was a common theme running throughout AKP’s design across all three campus buildings. Our straight sliding panel system is easy to use and makes an impressive visual impact, which ticked all the boxes for AKP’s design and project management team.

Along with the three sets fitted in the Edzell Building, we installed a further eight sets in campus’ two other buildings to allow staff and students to open and close various learning labs and seminar spaces.

The use of Linera allowed for the clever use of zoning, thanks to the incorporation of bright and vibrant finishes. Each area has a distinct colour running through it and we matched the primary colour palate of each zone on the Linera’s sliding panels. This created a clear structure within the space, a must for any large and open plan environment, especially one that has flexible learning at its core.

This theme of colour-coding spaces continued through the separation of several seminar rooms from the wider research areas. However, instead of utilising a fixed partition, we were asked to provide a more flexible solution.

The thought process was that by softly opening and closing the spaces up – rather than, say, use a static wall and door – would encourage students to utilise the seminar rooms when they weren’t in formal use. To do this, we needed a lightweight track system that could be operated quickly and easily. Float fitted the bill perfectly, and glass panels were chosen to aid light transfer between spaces.

From this, we worked with AKP to create a series of colourful panel manifestations to aid the zoning of the different areas. Both our Float and Linera systems were also used to create a central divider for the campus’ main canteen area, located in the Carrick Building. The concept delivered to us was complex to say the least. A large, sliding system was required, complete with an integrated pass door and bespoke aluminium mesh panelling – and that’s just the condensed version. This required some adaptability on our part to meet AKP’s brief. In order to manufacture this bespoke wall, we had to get creative.

We mixed – or you could say meshed! – Float’s lightweight track and agile, twin-point suspension with Linera’s large, sliding panel to create a unique system that ticked all of boxes needed to require this unique request. This partition is quite literally one-of-a-kind. As well as shaping space, AKP also asked for our help regarding the campus’ acoustics.

Working closely with the design team (and factoring in likely loud spots) we installed three sets of ReSound baffles in the Carrick and Edzell buildings to help stop and soak up sound in social spaces. The baffles were wrapped in Camira Synergy fabric and installed at set intervals to create a visually impressive ceiling display that integrated seamlessly with the proposed lighting installation.

Finally, we were also asked to soften the sound coming from a designated breakout and auditorium space. Located opposite a clearly define ‘Quiet Zone’, we were tasked with stopping noise transferring across the hallway and disrupting those hard at work.

To solve this, and create a little extra flexibility, we provided a Float Whisper system, complete with CNCcut panels. As an acoustic absorber, the Whisper panels help to stop sound from travelling, a must in this scenario. But as they were suspended on an easyto-use track, we provided UWS’ staff and students with the options to configure this space as they saw fit – further fulfilling the University’s brief of creating a flexible space for learning.

The completed project, which took a total of twenty-six weeks, has drawn interest and praise from across the UK’s education, construction and property sectors. Such is the calibre of this exceptional space for learning, UWS’ Lanarkshire campus was nominated from a prestigious British Council of Offices (BCO) award. This is the definition of a perfect workspace; one that students and teachers alike will thrive in and one that we are incredibly honoured to have helped deliver alongside AKP.

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