UWE New Engineering Block, Bristol

  • Client

    University of the West of England              

  • Contractor

  • Value


  • Completion Date

    September 2020

Procurement Type: Two stage
Form of Contract: NEC 4 Option A Design & Build
Contract Period: 83 weeks
Size: 8,650m2

BAM has built the new state of the art engineering block for the University of the West of England (UWE) on their existing, busy campus in Bristol, which remained live during the project. The new building provides teaching and research facilities for more than 1,600 undergraduate and post graduate students along with 100 academic and technical staff.

Facilities include engine test cells, wind tunnels and dedicated rooms for specific engineering disciplines such as composite manufacturing, machining and metrology.

The three storey building was constructed out of structural steel frame with in-situ concrete ground floor, precast concrete upper floors and stairs and a combination of Corten cladding and curtain wall as the exterior finish.

A full height atrium forms the entrance which was finished with glulam timber cladding.

The project had a challenging programme, with completion in 83 weeks. To help ease the programme we appointed one of our CAT 1 structural steel frame contractors early in the process. Included in their package was the supply and installation of the precast concrete and glulam timber cladding works and this eliminate the issues that arise with different contractors carrying out the works.

The project was designed in a 3D environment under BIM level 2 requirements thereby minimising design issues before manufacture.  During the enabling works period a new site access was formed onto the campus ensuring the site was completely isolated from the rest of the campus mitigating any issues with site logistics and deliveries ensuring the site was secure and the university could continue to operate as normal.

The Challenge

The team worked together to successfully resolve a number of key challenges, notable examples include:

Bespoke Design – The client required a bespoke building that could cater for a diverse range of engineering subjects. Specific areas required very different physical properties, with each teaching space having a unique purpose that needed a bespoke design solution.

Noise / Vibration – Many of the ground floor engineering workshops generate high levels of noise and vibration.

Optimise functional learning space to create more opportunities for learning and a safe inclusive environment for students to flourish.

The Solution

Bespoke Design – The building was designed from the outset to allow for the physical nature of different engineering subjects, with ‘heavier’, material-based engineering on the ground floor, moving up through ‘lighter’ and cleaner engineering forms (for example, hydraulics, acoustic and electrical) on each of the three floors.

More traditional ‘heavy’ engineering subjects such as structural engineering, construction material, mechanical workshops and engine test cells require large spaces that are highly serviced and are typically loud and dirty due to the machinery and processes required. These testing spaces needed to be designed in such a way as to absorb vibrational impact and minimise disturbance to other teaching spaces nearby, achieved through a reinforced concrete ‘floating slab’ mounted on special acoustic bearing pads at regular spacings.

A 1.2m thick reinforced concrete strong wall and strong floor, capable of withstanding 150t, has been designed to enable bespoke testing of construction material and aircraft components. Bespoke anchors embedded within the strong wall and strong floor and a 2.5t lifting crane have also been designed to meet the university testing requirements.

Acoustics – As many of these ground floor engineering workrooms generate high levels of noise, a key challenge for our acoustic engineers was to determine the level of sound insulation necessary in order to achieve acceptable internal noise levels in the adjoining rooms during the operation of equipment. Where necessary, a pragmatic approach between practical design and acoustics standards was reached.

On the floors above this, high-tech electronics labs, modelling and simulation suites and mechatronics labs with robotic arms had different requirements again, needing solutions to the equipment’s high heat gains and sensitivity to noise and vibration. A thermo-fluids lab required floating power sockets mounted from the ceiling to counteract any potential issues from regular water simulations, while a programming laboratory features a large robotic arm, which is very sensitive to the room’s doors opening and shutting.

Optimise functional learning space Combining circulation with social learning space has resulted in a very efficient building with almost every corridor having a dual function. This openness was a key part of the University’s brief, ensuring that the building avoided intimidating spaces to encourage a more diverse range of engineering students.

The Results

This stunning low energy building provides a state-of-the art and inclusive engineering faculty, that will assist UWE in its aim of encouraging greater diversity within engineering as a whole. In October 2021, UWE Engineering Building was awarded Social Infrastructure Project of the Year and overall Project of the Year at the BCIA awards.




SME Spend


Added Value


Client Satisfaction

Client Testimonials

”We had a good team of designers, consultants, contractors and the Faculty team who worked in collaboration to make this project a success. As with all projects there are challenges to work through but working together these were overcome. A great team effort during an extremely challenging period.”

Contractor Performance | Commitments


The design focused on making the life cycle of the building as efficient as possible, helping to add long-term value.

Low carbon design principles, including natural ventilation and passive cooling, were adopted from the start of the design process to minimize the building’s carbon emissions in line with the university’s ambitious carbon reduction targets.

Energy and carbon reduction targets on this project were exceeded, with regulated energy use. The project achieved a very low A rated EPC value. The building achieved a BREEAM Excellent rating, it’s well insulated and energy efficient. Use of LED lights, PV panels on roof and water harvesting for grey water. The new facility is connected to UWE District Heating system. Natural ventilation and light used as much as possible.


96 training weeks

42 career events

34 educational site visits

£146,088 Social and Local economic value delivered

Worked with UWE on future sustainability projects in Africa

Supported PHD students research into construction related information

Provided work experience to a number of construction students prior to pandemic

Introduced a mature apprentice through BAM shared apprenticeship scheme


At the peak of the pandemic, the project team pulled out all the stops to still handover the building clean and fully usable in time for the University to occupy ahead of the new academic year. Key to this was providing the University with early access to undertake fit out works.

BAM pulled out all the stops to still handover the building clean and fully usable in time for the University to occupy ahead of the new academic year. BAM allowed the University site access prior to Handover for its own fit out as this programme was also disrupted due to COVID. This was very much appreciated. Several snags remained post-handover and I have been working with BAM to close these out during the defects period. 


100% payment within 30 days terms


To avoid construction access through the heart of the campus BAM proposed a temporary road to keep the works completely segregated, this measure along with a separate area for contractors parking and material storage made it it safer to build and minimised construction impacts. CCS Score 40/45


  • British Construction Industry Awards 2021 – Winner Project of the Year
  • British Construction Industry Awards 2021 – Winner Social Infrastructure Project of the Year
  • Education Estates Awards 2021 – Shortlisted Project of the Year Universities
  • Overall ‘Project of the Year’, and ‘Social Infrastructure Project of the Year at the British Construction Industry Awards 2021
  • RIBA Southwest Awards 2022 – Regional Award

SCF Framework Manager

Kingsley Clarke

Email: kingsley.clarke@devon.gov.uk

Phone: 07805760622

Contractor Framework Manager

Darren Birch

Email: dbirch@bam.com

Phone: 07920 134843