Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Revolutionary 'Building as a Lab' Is Unlocked at Science Central; NEWCASTLE UNIVERSITY

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Revolutionary 'Building as a Lab' Is Unlocked at Science Central; NEWCASTLE UNIVERSITY

Article excerpt

CONSTRUCTION of an advanced research facility has reached completion at Newcastle's Science Central.

Newcastle University's The Key, a unique tensile fabric structure that has been built on the same principles as a soap bubble, is now open for business.

Signalling a UK-first for this kind of technology, The Key has been designed as a permanent, heated office space, and highlights the growing demand for sustainable structures in response to factors such as climate change and energy conservation.

Arup and Space Architects worked in close collaboration to deliver this engineering design-led project for Newcastle University. The team used similar techniques and technologies that were developed by the university's team for the 2012 Olympic Stadium.

Peter Gosling, Newcastle University's Professor of computational and structural mechanics who led the project, explained: "The Key is the culmination of 15 years' world-leading research on fabric structures at Newcastle University and provides us with a unique, large-scale research facility as a result of detailed environmental and structural monitoring.

"The structure itself is incredibly strong - following the same principles as a soap bubble - but it is also efficient, using minimal materials and designed to have minimum impact on the environment. This means that what we learn from the building itself is as important as the research going on inside it."

The building incorporates detailed environmental, structural and laser point displacement monitoring and is the university's first building on Science Central - the city's new urban innovation hub and an exemplar of urban sustainability.

An elegant, lightweight triple skin fabric structure, it utilises rapid construction and features a dynamic, single, open-plan interior space with a curved ceiling soaring 18 metres high. Its tri-star mast and triple conic forms extend towards the sky maximising natural light levels and reducing energy use through passive ventilation.

Led by Professor Peter Gosling and Dr Ben Bridgens of the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences at Newcastle University, work on the building began in July 2015 and was completed last month.

Peter said of the completed building: "This is an iconic structure that represents solutions to a range of advanced technical problems. The quality of the internal space redefines the workplace."

Gordon Mungall, structural engineer and associate director at Arup, said: "This has been such an exciting project to work on with Newcastle University and Space Architects. Together, we explored ways to push the boundaries of the material's form and function, resulting in an innovative lightweight fabric structure which performs against stringent environmental criteria. …

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