Southampton Boldrewood Innovation Campus November 2018

Date & Time: 15th November 2018

University of Southampton, with Grimshaw Architects, hosted an HEDQF visit with presentation and tours of the Boldrewood Innovation Campus, which completes in 2019 after 10 years of investment.

The buildings were unusually coherent, being designed by a consistent design team led by Grimshaw Architects, over a ten-year period, when compared to many university campuses which often have a handful of teams involved, relying on landscape and public realm to hold them together. This was picked up in discussion after the event and it was felt that the architectural and campus urban design was successful. The buildings are not self-conscious landmarks or icons, but together create a consistent and harmonious campus look and feel, that relates well to the central court, whilst connecting with the beautiful mature, heavily treed landscape setting and neighbouring detached housing. The buildings express their nautical engineering content, in subtle but legible ways and are generally very well detailed.

Nevertheless, it was felt that perhaps more could have been done to activate the central landscape court and manage the accommodation of car parking. Modest car park buildings are included, perhaps these could have been larger to free up more of the central landscape. This could have enabled the growth of more mature trees (In keeping with the arboretum and neighbouring Southampton Common) and also perhaps have created further interface between the lower ground floor research workshops and the central landscape? This might have encouraged greater active use of the green spaces in addition to providing a visual resource.

The sustainability credentials of the project were questioned. The masterplan includes a CHP and the BREEAM certification of each building completed has risen from Very Good initially to Excellent at completion of the masterplan. Two points were made in particular; that over 10 years BREEAM has changed, and that also in a project with phased delivery, when the CHP is in a later phase the scoring is not set-up to recognise later phases.

Procurement & change management, was discussed in the context of this being a long project over 10 years – from masterplan to completion – creating four new buildings, central landscaped court and car parking.  Inevitably numerous brief and design changes needed to be accommodated, the contractual arrangements facilitated this quite well, but lessons could be learnt. The point was raised that with change that could be anticipated, although the exact detail not yet known the question was raised whether a 2 stage D&B with basic methods for managing variations was the best contractual method. Would a shell and core approach, similar to a commercial setting be more accommodating to change and avoid difficult contractual situations?

The afternoon was well received by around 35 delegates, with thanks to University of Southampton, to Grimshaw Architects and to HEDQF for facilitating.

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