HLM – University of Sheffield Social Sciences Building

HLM Architects won a competitive bid by offering a remarkable design in reply to a brief to create a world-class facility for the University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Social Sciences.

HLM design a world-class building for academic excellence

Making up over a third of the total student population with 11,000 in the sector, The University of Sheffield holds the Faculty of Social Sciences as their largest faculty. To accommodate future growth and nurture academic success, the university decided on having a single building solely for this purpose would allow for the goals. HLM had provided a building to enhance both the experience for students, as well as the reputation of the faculty, for excellence in teaching and research.

HLM - University of Sheffield

The new building will sit at the edge of the campus, providing a new entrance to the university campus and creating a Social Sciences Hub with improved links to the Sheffield University Management School nearby.

Collaborative design delivers a social heart

HLM utilised Archicad to design a student-centred research and teaching area, while working with a many stakeholders including academics, researchers, teaching staff and student representatives as well as the Estates and Facilities Management team. The team devised a plan for the building to include a ‘social heart’ – the atrium. The atrium is surrounded by spaces intended for research and teaching, while a bespoke glass façade offers light and a sense of openness.

HLM - University of Sheffield

HLM worked with the university consistently, offering images of the building from the Archicad model, showcasing designs with mobile communication tool BIMx, and even commissioning a fly-through from a specialist CGI firm using the Archicad model as a base.

Creating a space for the community

Another task for the team was to include social and green spaces that the public could also make use of. The building gives the street quite some space with it’s small park at the entrance, with an inviting feel. A large café will also open to the public, with intent to be a welcoming space for visitors to the cancer hospital opposite.

“We worked closely with a broad range of stakeholders,” says Karl Brown, project architect at HLM, “to design a building that would work for the whole community.”

HLM use BIMx to present designs

BIMx was used regularly throughout the project, aiding the architects to show stakeholders how the building would look and to offer a sense of its space and proportion.

“Our clients loved BIMx and the ability to be able to virtually ‘walk’ through the building. As architects, we are used to looking at drawings and interpreting them. But for non-architects, BIMx is an incredibly useful tool to show how the building will look.”

HLM’s BIM manager Ian Curran explained that the team extensively used BIMx to share designs during meetings with stakeholders, and when asked what impact taking some height from the floor would have, they were able to present this change immediately.

Encouraging close collaboration between departments

Made up of 13 departments, the Faculty of Social Sciences offers a great range of subjects for students, including economics, politics, journalism, photography and architecture. The new building intends to unite these departments, previously being scattered across 16 different campuses in Sheffield.

HLM - University of Sheffield

Bringing these departments together was logical as they regularly work together on large-scale grant-funded research projects. The building had been designed around a new multi-disciplinary research hub, to encourage a collaborative environment. The architects provided a staffroom, as well as a café for staff and students within the 13 departments.

HLM produce a striking façade in half the time

Without Archicad’s automation, the building’s appearance, which is a complex triangular façade, would have been extremely time consuming to design. HLM worked with support from Graphisoft UK to create each piece of the façade as a module within Archicad.

“Every piece of information we need is included within the module and this made the process so much easier. If we needed to do it manually, it would have been almost impossible. But as a workflow, it saved so much time. By creating a module for the repetitive element of the façade we probably cut the time spent on the façade by up to 50%. At the time we were really pushing the frontiers of what Archicad could do.”

HLM applied the same principle for the office spaces, creating all the furniture as modules and copying them across for each office.

Karl at HLM added that the experience will help massively in their coming projects, the team now have a repeatable workflow to use in repetitive elements in designs.

Exchanging information via IFC

During the project HLM exchanged information via IFC with a number of different teams and contractors, including the structural engineers, mechanical and electrical engineers, fire engineers, façade engineers, acoustics specialists and thermal modelling specialists.

“The interoperability between Archicad and other software in the UK is excellent,” says Karl. “The structural model was brought into Archicad from Revit via a hotlink, so it was very easy to make changes. Meanwhile, due to its size and complexity, the federated model with all disciplines included was stored in Navisworks.”

The structural, civil and building services engineers working on the project were using Revit, so exchanging information using IFC went smoothly thanks to the hotlink between Archicad and Revit.

However, not all consultants need the same information and data for their own requirements. For this project, the cost consultants Turner and Townsend asked for the IFC model to be exported in a particular way. This was the first time HLM had been asked to do this, so the team changed the settings, used a different plugin and the process worked very smoothly.

Building sustainably

A requirement for the new building was that it should be both low energy and low carbon, a sustainable and ambitious value for the university.

HLM worked with its in-house sustainability consultants to achieve a low carbon building. The building will use ground source heat pumps to provide heating in winter and cooling in summer as a way to achieve this target.

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