With its £70m regeneration masterplan, the University of Bedfordshire aims to deliver a campus with an improved sense of community. The first phase concentrated on the new Campus Centre building, for which we supplied structural, fire and geotechnical engineering. It provides a student social hub, a lecture theatre, exhibition space, and catering and student support facilities, over four floors and a mezzanine.
The site in central Luton posed a number of challenges, and historic remains — including a moat — discovered during demolition works delayed progress. In addition, a live services tunnel had to be diverted and negotiations on boundary issues undertaken. The new building shares a wall with the neighbouring business school, and the school's basement in particular required analysis to ensure it was not overloaded during the installation of new concrete piles. On the other side of the site, a new bridge links the centre to the neighbouring building at first floor level, over a public right-of-way. The two buildings adjoining the site remained occupied throughout.
To limit noise from drilling, fixings needed in the facade's concrete frame were cast into the slabs. The majority of the building is concrete frame with exposed slab soffits, except for the lecture theatre, where a long-span steel frame offers flexibility for the future. Tiered seating extends from first to second floor. The space below the theatre accommodates a labyrinth providing thermal mass for daytime cooling, and a suspended conference room pod accessed from the mezzanine.
The centre's cavity brick walls incorporate precast concrete panels and brick slips for better buildability. Finishes include engineered timber curtain walling and bronze expanded mesh used for rain-screening and shading. The third floor steps back, creating a terrace area. Its roof incorporates a long run of ETFE panelling over an internal 'street' below, introducing natural daylight the full height of the building.