The state-of-the-art structure on Science Central will be the new home for the University’s School of Computing Science and its 1,395 staff and students.
It is the second of the University’s buildings to be completed on the site, following the opening of The Key building in 2015, and has been designed not just as a place for research and learning but as a research experiment itself.
Encased in a web of digital infrastructure which connects walls, windows and fittings through thousands of sensors, this ‘intelligent’ building will help us better understand how to create more sustainable, efficient buildings of the future.
Trialling new energy systems, novel materials and smart engineering, the Urban Sciences Building (USB) is a key part of the Science Central vision to create a full scale demonstrator of urban innovation - a ‘living laboratory’ underpinning research to make urban centres more sustainable for future generations.
The £350m urban regeneration project, the largest of its kind in the UK, will also house the new £40m National Innovation Centre: Ageing, the £30m National Innovation Centre: Data, the £20m National Centre for Energy Systems Integration and £11.2m UKCRIC integrated infrastructure labs and urban observatory.
Professor John Fitzgerald, Deputy Head of the School of Computing Science and leading the USB project, said:
"The USB is a real step forward for research and education in computer science. Practically every new product has computing in it, and almost every aspect of our lives depends on digital technology.
“That’s why it makes sense to bring expertise in computing and software right alongside other disciplines - energy, infrastructure, sustainability, society - and work together to drive outstanding new research, innovation, and new businesses in these key areas that really make a difference to the quality of life in the 21st Century.”
Ewan Graham, associate at Hawkins\Brown architects, said:
"We are delighted to have helped Newcastle University deliver a building that will change the way we think about sustainability in cities.
“The infrastructure they are installing at the moment will not only develop academic thinking but will encourage opportunities for the people of Newcastle and the wider North East to interact with urban development and sustainability.
“We can't wait to see the building come to life when its doors open and we look forward to learning alongside the university as the smart systems are fine-tuned over time and the smart meters begin to mine meaningful performance data."
Main contractor, Bowmer & Kirkland has been on site since November 2015. Contracts Manager, Wayne Denham, said:
“To be involved in the construction of such a landmark, trail-blazing building is an honour and one that the entire B&K team has found both interesting and enjoyable.”
David Goodwin, Urban Sciences Building Manager for Science Central, added:
"A living lab isn't static, it's a fluid organism that throughout its lifespan can be adapted to suit the needs of researchers and occupants.”
From coal mining to data mining
Science Central is a partnership between Newcastle University, Newcastle City Council and Legal & General Capital. The 24acre site is based in the heart of Newcastle City Centre and was once a coal mine before being taken over by Newcastle Breweries and more recently the Science Central partnership.
Professor Stephanie Glendinning, Dean of Strategic Projects at Newcastle University, explained:
"Science Central is unique in the UK. We are creating a demonstration site that is not just another University lab bench but a full scale, real-world solution that businesses and communities can get involved with and help to shape.”
It’s a vision that is already starting to make a real impact. Using the new Decision Theatre, local people have been working with academics to share their experiences of flooding in order to build up a picture of the impact on urban areas. In response, Newcastle University experts have been trialling green spaces and permeable paving, and working with local engineers to implement these solutions.
Professor Fitzgerald added:
“Computing at Newcastle University is really on the rise. It is now one of the best university research units in the UK and one of the top 100 schools in the world.
“The USB is a great opportunity to give the next generation an experience that prepares them better for developing innovative and trustworthy systems for the future.
“The North East deserves to have world-class computer science going on at its heart, and the USB is a real step up in delivering that – nowhere in the world is anyone doing what we’re doing here in Newcastle and it’s incredibly exciting.”