The new National Brownfield Institute (NBI) research centre on the University of Wolverhampton’s £120m Springfield Campus has been officially opened: just 457 days from being a concept on paper. It will become a world-class institute that provides the facility to develop modern methods of building through innovation and partnership with the construction industry, focusing on the practical application of future brownfield regeneration through the work of research teams, leading policy development, and providing commercial services.
A key facility is the high spec 9-metre-diameter Igloo environment – a 4D immersive suite which will be used in research to assess land for regeneration via a state-of-the-art virtual and augmented reality area. In addition, the building’s users will enjoy a large open innovative collaborative digital lab inspired by free-thinking workspaces, as well as space to host industry events.
The NBI will secure Wolverhampton’s position as a leader internationally in sustainable construction, circular economy and brownfield development and will deliver new skills, jobs, and opportunities for local people in the city, which has been hit hard by the pandemic. The Institute will also identify and look focus on digital skills needed in the industry, bringing together expertise from across the region and further afield with greater focus on construction design, Building Information Modelling (BIM), off-site, modular construction, and lean construction methodologies.
It will build on existing expertise offered on-site at the 12-acre Springfield Campus through the Thomas Telford University Technical College, the Elite Centre for Manufacturing Skills and the new £45 million School of Architecture & the Built Environment. All of which were designed by Associated Architects and have come to signify the strong relationship with the University. The addition of the National Brownfield Institute will make Wolverhampton a world leader in construction, regeneration and built environment, offering teaching and skills development, cutting edge research and innovation, and enterprise and business engagement through multi-sector partnerships.
The NBI project team included the University’s Estates & Facilities Team, Associate Architects, CPW, Faithful & Gould, Delta Planning, Atkins, and MACE. ISG were the contractor responsible for the speedy construction with work on site only starting in April 2021. Indeed, the construction of the NBI will itself utilised modular / off-site construction methods where possible for speed, as well as for their ongoing ‘demonstrator’ potential.
Warren Jukes, Managing Director at Associated Architects, said:
“The NBI adds to our already impressive portfolio of projects on the Springfield Campus, which has been recipient of numerous national and regional awards and shortlistings. The facilities on this site combined with the NBI will lay a foundation for the delivery of a National Centre for Sustainable Construction and Circular Economy, which will focus on sustainability and the climate change emergency.”
Dr David Heesom, Reader in Building Information Modelling in the University’s School of Architecture and Built Environment, said:
“Having the NBI as part of the Springfield Campus and connected to the School of Architecture and Built Environment is another example of how we are bringing industry closer to our student body to ensure they are continually engaged with the construction sector, gaining real world experience during their studies.”
The facility has already attracted visitors such as the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove who met with University and Council leaders during a visit to the department’s second headquarters in Wolverhampton.