Maber’s Isaac Newton Building : How ARCHICAD Eased Tight Deadlines

The Isaac Newton Building is somewhat unusual in that it is purpose-built as a school of Engineering. At the time of its construction, it was the first such building in the UK for more than 20 years.

Located on the Brayford campus of the University of Lincoln, construction was a collaboration between the University of Lincoln and Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery LTD (SITL). The project was also supported by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), which contributed a grant of £4.3 million towards the total cost of over £30 million.

The Isaac Newton Building is somewhat unusual in that it is purpose-built as a school of Engineering
The Isaac Newton Building is somewhat unusual in that it is purpose-built as a school of Engineering

One of the most useful features of Graphisoft’s ARCHICAD is the way in which the software facilitates a collaborative design process. When a project must be completed according to a strict schedule, that collaborative functionality, along with the many other advantages the software provides, is invaluable. Such was the case with the University of Lincoln’s Isaac Newton Building, a school of Engineering constructed to house the school’s Computer Science, Engineering, Physics, and Mathematics schools.

Development of the Isaac Newton Building was split into two phases, with the start of the second phase overlapping with the end of the first. In phase one, the existing engineering building was extended, to allow room for the addition of Electrical and Electronic Engineering facilities. In phase two, a new building was constructed to house the university’s schools of Computer Science, Mathematics, and Physics. The building also includes a 500-seat lecture theatre and a catering facility.

Maber Uses ARCHICAD to Speed Up the Design Process

The University of Lincoln chose architectural firm Maber to design the new building. An award-winning firm established in 1983, Maber has offices in Nottingham, Derby, Leicester, Birmingham, and London. The firm designs across a wide range of industry sectors, and has developed a reputation for its work on challenging brownfield and historically sensitive sites. In this instance, the Maber team found themselves working on a tight schedule, and produced a full set of designs and drawings in less than a year. Graphisoft’s ARCHICAD was instrumental in helping the team complete the project so quickly.

According to Maber associate Alex Lipinski

“the software helped speed up the design process in a number of ways. With ARCHICAD, there is no barrier to collaboration when contractors are using different platforms. It takes a little time to set everything up, but once the initial coordination document is shared and the parameters are agreed, everyone is working from the same reference point. The curtain walling tool is easy to use too, and it’s very quick to get the results you want. Without it, it would have been days of work to complete that element of the design.”

One of the key requirements for the design was that it reflect the University of Lincoln’s reputation as a top-50 school, with a distinctive design statement. Here, Maber designed a striking curved building facade, accentuated with bronze cladding. The ARCHICAD curtain-walling tool was instrumental in the design of this particular element.

With ARCHICAD, there is no barrier to collaboration when contractors are using different platforms.
With ARCHICAD, there is no barrier to collaboration when contractors are using different platforms.

Isaac Newton Building Location and Site Challenges

The location and size of the size posed challenges for the Maber design team, too. First, there was the proximity of Lincoln cathedral, located just 500 metres from the site of the construction site of the new building. The new construction had to be designed such that it would not alter or obstruct the viewing corridor for the cathedral.

The next challenge was in working within the space limitations of the project. Each of the different teaching schools had highly specific requirements in terms of the space and facilities that each of them needed. Laboratories, workshops, and computer and robotics suites, all needed large amounts of space, as well as the additional space and complexities of plumbing, pipework, and electrical services.

Then, the fact that the new building must connect with the existing one: the new connection had to be sited over a culvert, on a site that was highly constrained. And all of the work had to be done with students still on campus, and using the existing engineering building. ARCHICAD allowed the design team to handle all of these challenges quickly, and with minimal fuss. And Graphisoft’s portable virtual reality tool, BIMx, was also of huge value, allowing the design team to walk the client through the designs, and helping them to test different design concepts quickly and easily.

Easy Collaboration and Data Collection

The specialist nature of the project meant a need for highly precise collaboration and coordination between the architectural firm and a range of different contractors. Here, the use of ARCHICAD made it easy for Maber to share IFC data with service providers and contractors, even in cases where different BIM-authoring tools were being used. Alex said,

“With ARCHICAD, there is no barrier to collaboration when contractors are using different platforms. It takes a little time to set everything up, but once the initial coordination document is shared and the parameters are agreed, everyone is working from the same reference point. Without ARCHICAD and the IFC data already in place, it would have been weeks of work to produce the required COBie information for the client.”

Graphisoft’s BIM software also enabled Maber to provide the University with COBie data, with little notice. The University asked for the data to help it manage the building more effectively in the future, and Maber was able to deliver in record time, using ARCHICAD IFC management systems.

In Spring of 2017, the Isaac Newton Building was completed
In Spring of 2017, the Isaac Newton Building was completed

Finally, in Spring of 2017, the Isaac Newton Building was completed. Now fully operational, it’s helping to educate a new generation of students, and its handsome bronze facade has proven to be exactly the design statement the University was hoping for. And for Maber, the Isaac Newton Building earned the firm its second BIM Project of the Year Award, along with a runner-up award for Best Public Building.