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"The Science and Health Building has been an extremely immersive project for us all"
Mark Evans

Mark Evans is an Associate Director in our Birmingham studio and he has been at Broadway Malyan for over 12 years.

8:30

I have just dropped my daughter off at nursery and while I would normally head to our Birmingham studio, today I hop on to the train towards Coventry instead. We are currently working on the new Science and Health Building for Coventry University, located at the core of their evolving new city centre Health and Life Sciences Quadrant.

The journey to Coventry is quick but I still have time to go through my emails and agenda for the busy day ahead, which includes a number of meetings and a tour of the site.

Our Birmingham studio is conveniently located in the city centre, just minutes away from the station so it’s simple and practical to reach Coventry by train. Conveniently for our client, the strategic location of our office allows us to be on site within 25 minutes to promptly solve any issue or attend to any critical stages of construction.

We are currently carrying out three major projects at the University; the Science and Health Building (SHB), the Engineering and Computing Building 2 and the Civic Centre. Due to our long standing relationship with Coventry University and our broad knowledge of the site, it is often the case that they will ask us to help out with other projects they have in the pipeline. SHB has been an extremely interesting and extensive project to work on and I am very keen to see how the construction is progressing.

9:30

I arrive at the University and meet up with the rest of the Coventry team from the Birmingham office. The excitement among the team is palpable; SHB is just about to reach completion and as we walk across the campus inspecting the construction progress we take in the building in its final shape.

Sketch showing proposed new Science and Health Building at Coventry University

Our first meeting is with the Heads of Faculty and members of the contracting team. This morning’s agenda looks at covering all three projects we are currently working on with the University.

SHB is up first. We discuss how the works are progressing, go through the issues which have arisen on site and assess which challenges we are likely to have to face in the future. SHB covers multiple disciplines: as well as doing the design for the building, we also take care of the landscaping. We firmly believe in the importance of regular face-to-face team meetings and although we constantly communicate via phone and email, being in the same room always proves to be much more productive.

11.30

After a quick coffee break, we move on to the Engineering and Computing Building 2. This project is in the early stakeholder consultation process meaning that we are currently undertaking a conversation with both the teaching and technical staff to agree on the design and assess their specific requirements.

During this critical stage we have run a number of workshops to engage in dialogue not only with the client but also with the end users, asking them to express their needs and expectations, putting forward suggestions on how each space could be maximised and assessing what look and feel they envisage for the building. I take out the report from last week’s workshop and we go through the main points brought up by the participants.

"The excitement among the team is palpable; SHB is just about to reach completion and as we walk across the campus inspecting the construction progress we take in the building in its final shape"

"The excitement among the team is palpable; SHB is just about to reach completion and as we walk across the campus inspecting the construction progress we take in the building in its final shape"

12.00

We have a brief chat about the Civic Centre project, which is still at a very early stage. We are currently arranging a benchmarking trip with the Vice Chancellor, Faculty and Teaching staff to visit other landmark education buildings such as Oxford and Lancaster Universities. I briefly talk through the schedule planned for that day.

Benchmarking tours enable both the designers and end users to explore which approach other fellow teaching institutions have taken towards their learning spaces and is always a great kick-start to a constructive dialogue. As a result, we usually get a very clear picture of what is most important to the clients and stakeholders and which elements they regard as a priority for their new building’s success. It is fascinating to listen to the conversations that occur on the journey back from the sites and hear what everyone made of the buildings they saw.

Interior photo of Grade II listed Civic Centre Dagenham London, to be refurbished into a new London campus building for Coventry University.

The big challenge ahead while designing the Civic Centre will be that of creating a HQ facility building for three very different end users. The Civic Centre will be the corporate front door for the university and the senior management team, as well as the hub for international and post graduate students. Working out how they can all share the space smoothly by selecting appropriate levels of interface is extremely thought-provoking and exciting for a designer.

13:30

The meeting is over and we now have time to grab a quick bite all together. SHB has been an extremely immersive project for us all – the architects, faculty, construction team and engineers have had to work very closely in order to successfully design and deliver such a high-tech building. We have designed the Health and Science Building together, with us offering our expertise and the University staff guiding the design hand. This joint effort resulted in an excellent relationship with both the client and contractors making this project so much more enjoyable and rewarding.

Photo of highly specialised accident and emergency facilities at Coventry University's new Science and Health Building.

14.00

The second part of the day on site starts with an extensive tour of the SHB. It is a very high-spec building with two floors of contemporary science laboratories, sports facilities such as running tracks and strength and conditioning on the ground floor and the reproduction of a hospital.

This means there is a very wide range of diverse uses under one roof; the hospital floor needs all the elements of a real hospital – the cleanliness, the capacity to transport gas, there’s even an operating theatre! I’ve had experience of designing science labs in the past, but I have learnt a lot about health technology with this project. Thanks to the university staff I got to understand exactly what happens during the patient’s journey and what is needed at each stage.

During the site tour we check how the contractors are doing and answer the questions arisen during the build. This visit is also an opportunity to monitor the overall quality of the building so that we can maintain the highest of standards until the very end.

A couple of weeks ago we took the teaching staff on a site tour as well; we very much believe in the importance of taking the end user through the various growth stages of the project and showing them first-hand how their ‘new home’ is progressing and how the drawings they saw are quickly turning to reality.

15:30

After a successful day onsite I head back to the office to sort out a few things before the end of the day. We recently won a new project and being responsible for the workload coordination in Birmingham, I need to promptly schedule a meeting to discuss who will be allocated to the new job from my team. I stick a note in my diary for tomorrow morning.

16.30

While I sip my afternoon coffee, I go through the list of groups who have requested to be taken on a tour of the Science and Health Building once it is complete.

It’s exciting to see so much enthusiasm and participation despite the project still being incomplete. The list includes local authorities such as the Council and Planning Department in Coventry and the Birmingham Architects Association.

I scroll through my calendar and am reminded that our next education sector meeting will also take place at Coventry. Holding our quarterly internal meeting in one of our own education buildings will be a huge inspiration for the team, allowing them to see in practice the work we’ve been doing, even though they may not have directly been involved in this particular project.

17:30

I am off to Manchester for the 2017 Education Estates Awards. We have been shortlisted in the ‘The Project of the Year’ category, with Coventry University also in for ‘Client of the Year’. With universities having to do so much more to attract students there are some great projects shortlisted, so it will be a tough competition. Fingers crossed for a fantastic night.

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