SWIoT Building, University of Exeter
LHC Design and Austin-Smith:Lord
Anvil Expanded Mesh Cladding
The South West Institute of Technology (SWIoT) Building is a brand-new £3.1m facility for computer science education at the University of Exeter. Located at the university’s Streatham Campus, the state-of-the-art building is a unique collaboration between a number of education providers in the South West, who have each invested in the training of the next generation. Designed by LHC Design and Austin-Smith:Lord architects, the building houses two key spaces; a 120sqm computer lab and a 100sqm Artificial Intelligence (AI) Arena.
Taylor Maxwell worked with main contractors Morgan Sindall and installers Progressive Systems to specify and supply Anvil expanded mesh cladding in a polyester powder coated (PPC) finish to the project. With construction starting on site in early 2021, the project was delivered quickly, with Morgan Sindall completing the build by the autumn of the same year. Morgan Sindall ensured social value initiatives were in place throughout the build programme, which included employing local businesses, with 80% of the supply chain being based within 30 miles of the site. This included LHC Architecture and the cladding installers, Progressive Systems who are both based in Exeter.
In 2018, a feasibility study was carried out for the University of Exeter, to explore the practicality of the desired concept and how the project would work for the university, its students and the investors. Following the study, a site on the university’s Streatham Campus was selected due to its proximity to the university’s two existing Innovation Centres. The Streatham Campus sits just 1.5 miles outside of the city centre and is the University of Exeter’s largest site.
The SWIoT building was designed to protrude from an existing grass bank on the site to maximise teaching space, it was therefore important that the palette of materials and colours chosen complemented the building’s setting. The main structural walls were designed to be constructed from pigmented concrete, which was to be sourced locally to ensure that the building tied in with the local environment. Above the glass windows running along the front of the facade, a mesh cladding was selected to give the frontage a striking decorative element. Anvil expanded mesh cladding was chosen for this purpose as it met the project requirements, being both A2 fire rated and recyclable.
From the outset, the project team wanted the build to achieve a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating at both design and construction stages. In order to receive this rating, it was ensured that considerations were made at every stage of planning and construction.
The design team appointed a BREEAM Assessor during the early stages of planning, who compiled a primary indication of the project’s performance against the BREAAM assessment criteria. This helped the team to outline the route they needed to follow to achieve their desired rating. The Assessor worked closely with the project team throughout, to support them, provide reasonable and achievable targets and to ensure the chosen route was closely followed.
Anvil expanded mesh cladding is a sustainable product choice and was therefore well suited to this project. Due to the intrinsic structure of the panels, very little waste is created during manufacturing. The cladding also has a robust nature and alongside it’s long working life, can easily be recycled.
Having achieved its aim of being certified as BREEAM ‘Excellent’, the project is a testament to the hard work of the project team to ensure that the construction was as sustainable as possible. Overall, SWIoT is 25% more energy efficient than a standard building, with many energy saving installations assisting in the achievement of this. The Anvil mesh cladding had both an aesthetic and practical use on this project, with the mesh providing shade from the sun and therefore reducing the amount of heat build-up internally. The facility also features a green roof, planted with wildflowers to attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
Inside, the two teaching areas, communal spaces and bathrooms are located on the ground floor, making the main building accessible across one-storey. On the roof of the underground structure, a small link building was added to the design to provide access to the existing Innovation Centre behind. This link to adjoin the two buildings was an important part of the university’s dedication to providing connection and accessibility across the campus. By connecting the two Innovation Centres in this simple design, they are able to share facilities and function jointly.
Externally, the building has been designed to follow the curve of the road, providing a strong and interesting frontage to the facility. The Anvil expanded mesh cladding which spans across the top section of the facade, creates both a visually striking and functional face to the building. The colour of the expanded mesh cladding was selected to match the copper shade of composite cladding that was used on the link passage situated on the roof of the building. The cladding was chosen in a polyester powder coated (PPC) finish, which provided a cost-effective solution to matching the colour of the other cladding system.
SWIoT is now one of 12 Institutes of Technology located across the country, providing exceptional teaching and training for the next generation of engineers and technicians.
To find out more about Anvil expanded mesh cladding and how it could work for your next project, click here.