5 March 2015 10:17

Lancaster University’s new flagship Engineering Building will provide a beacon of excellence for research and recruitment for the UK’s buoyant and significant engineering industry.

The new eco-building, officially opened on Wednesday (March 4) by the new Chancellor, Alan Milburn, boasts a world-class environment with specially designed workshops, teaching laboratories and office areas.

Unveiling a plaque, Mr Milburn said: “It is fitting that the Engineering Building should, in itself, be so striking architecturally – sure to make a positive impression.”

Earlier Mr Milburn said: “What is exciting at this moment is looking forward to the University’s future in engineering and technology and it is great to hear of the progress that has been made.

“The work of the Commission I chair has shown some difficulties in encouraging children and young adults from less well-off backgrounds to enter engineering professions.

“Universities are in prime position to inspire the next generation of engineers through their outreach work and by providing superb facilities like this one.”

The new Lancaster development replaces outmoded 1960s’ facilities and provides additional areas for future growth and recent new specialisms such as nuclear and chemical engineering.

The decision to invest in and build the new high profile centre is set against a backdrop of a thriving global engineering industry.

The University’s long established Engineering Department has grown substantially in recent years both in reputation and numbers with the recruitment of 25 academic staff in the last five years, most with international experience, to cater for the department’s 350 students.

The two-winged, contemporary development with its light and airy glazed central atrium houses mechanical workshops, 3D printing and materials preparation laboratories on the ground floor, chemical engineering on the first floor with levels three and four providing academic office space, study areas, electronics workshops, research laboratories and meeting zones.

Large, well-equipped, project rooms ensure students have the space to work together on group assignments and design projects.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Mark E. Smith referred to the new Engineering Building as part of a £450 million spend on campus in the last decade with a further £135m planned over the next three years which would allow Lancaster University to compete on the global stage.

“Engineering at Lancaster has seen a period of great progress,” said Professor Smith. “The construction of the new building is testament to that advancement. We saw strides in the last national assessment of research performance and the department has increased in size and stature, welcoming more students than ever before.”

Head of the Engineering Department Professor Malcolm Joyce, who also holds a Personal Chair in Nuclear Engineering, said: “First impressions count. The new development will reaffirm our position in the UK. It will ensure we have the highest standard of facilities and it will raise our profile even further as a key provider of professional engineering education.”

Students, he added, will really benefit from the new and inspired working and learning environment kitted out with all the latest, top-of-the-range equipment, workshops and laboratories.

Contemporary ‘live labs’, visible from the outside of the building, are a key feature of the new design.

“Our new, state-of-the-art building was designed with the emphasis on making engineering at Lancaster visible to all those who pass,” explained Professor Joyce. 

“This has been accomplished and the visualisation that results sets us apart, not only in terms of the flexibility of seeing engineering practice at work but also embracing our strong, integrated ethos as a community of engineers working together.”

The department will also comprise extensive chemical engineering facilities, hydropower rigs, nuclear laboratories and high quality research facilities for marine renewable energy, chemical engineering, manufacturing, micro/nano systems and terahertz.

The engineering industry will also benefit from the new facility.

“There are so many successful engineering businesses in this region, from the West coast of Cumbria to East Lancashire,” said Professor Joyce. “There are real benefits for them to have a university with a flagship engineering department on the doorstep when it comes to quality research collaboration and graduate recruitment.”

Professor Joyce said that engineering was a highly-buoyant industry and related businesses were doing well.

“This means our students always have the pick of the jobs,” he explains. “90 per cent of our engineering students are in a professional managerial job six months after graduating and this year more than half our students had a job before their examination results came out. It’s brilliant to able to study and be confident that not only will you get a job but you will get the job of your choice.”

From a staff perspective the new building will bring everyone closer together to create a better integrated and much more inspiring place to work.

Designed by internationally-renowned architects John McAslan + Partners, the new building opened for business earlier this year. Lancashire-based Contractors Eric Wright Construction Ltd. were the building contractors.

The new building has been designed to achieve BREEAM ‘outstanding’ rating to exceed current regulations and industry benchmarks and to raise the bar in terms of building efficiency in line with the University’s sustainability and carbon reduction targets.

The guest speakers at a celebration lunch were: Dr Sarah Peers from the Women’s Engineering Society and Mr Tony Skipper, the Managing Director of architects John McAslan + Partners. The guest list also included representatives from many of the region’s engineering and construction companies and schools. Alumni Martin Fowler and Alex Hazle from Bentley Motors also attended.