Past Events

Past Events

Designing Out Risk 


Debate and discussion on designing out risk in projects, held at AECOM’s offices on 6th December 2017 


In 27 AD, an amphitheatre in Fidenae collapsed with between 20,000 and 50,000 people killed or injured.  Constructed from wood, it was packed with spectators after the Emperor Tiberius had lifted a ban on gladiatorial sports and is recorded as the earliest and worst stadium disaster in history. History is littered with building failures, including projects which have seriously run over the original budget and programme. 


Chaired by Ian Caldwell, Tony Llewellyn, Collaboration Director of  Resolex, Stewart Dabin from the Fire Engineering Team at AECOM and Neil Allfrey, Associate Partner at Penoyre & Prasad explored different aspects of risk and how to design it out, followed by an audience discussion.


Tony Llewellyn explored the issue of people and behaviours, and how professionals need good training in social skills, to match their training in technical and commercial skills, so that they can negotiate and influence, especially when major issues arise and how, despite risk registers and the like, design teams were very often not good at understanding the full complexity of a project and managing the real risks.  Project teams are comprised of people and they have their own characters, often being too optimistic, moving too fast, or not wanting to hear bad news and ignoring early warning signals.  There is also culture and politics, which may drive a project on regardless, a characteristic of some of the projects which have gone disastrously over budget and programme.   Key conclusions are that social intelligence is a key aspect of risk management, project teams should check their assumptions, there should be systems in place to catch early warning signals and important information should not be filtered out, as it often is. 


Stewart Dabin provided an update of the current views on good practice in fire engineering, focussed on higher education buildings which are often quite complex, such as with laboratories or scientific facilities, have unique hazards, are multi-user and have occupants of different ages and mobility.   In addition higher education buildings including many historic and listed buildings.


In general, higher education institutions are conscious of risks, require designers to go above and beyond building regulations and have fire officers within the institution to give expert advice. Key to successful fire engineering is the early involvement of fire engineers and the London Plan proposes that a fire engineering plan is included in the technical information in planning submissions.


Stewart then presented successful education examples including the Early Australian Stamford Years (EASY) project in Singapore, with the challenge of being a multi-level building occupied by young children from 18 months to 5 years, the Aga Khan University for the Study of Muslim Civilisations at King’s Cross, London, where the client wanted an open atrium running up through the building, and Sebastian Street for City, University of London, which had the complication of connecting into an existing building.


Neil Affrey then presented the successful recladding of Guy’s Tower, at the heart of Guy’s hospital at London Bridge, surrounded by hospital buildings and housing a mixture of uses including a large number of floors occupied by King’s College, London including the Dental Institute and other research departments. 


Neil explained the careful process which the project team, including Arup Facades, had gone through to gather information about a building that was several decades old and where, inevitably, drawings and records were out of date, to analyse and investigate the problems with the existing cladding both in terms of deterioration and of heat-loss, the design options developed and appraised, the choice of the procurement route, time given to the contractor to familiarise himself with the building and its constraints and, crucially prototypes of the cladding system and of the construction process to replace the windows from inside on the building itself, one of the main aims being that the building had to remain in use throughout the works with minimum disruption to the occupants. 


The discussion explored a number of issues including how project teams can cope with the ever-increasing complexity and regulation involved in modern buildings, the role of the client in not setting unreasonable time constraints, often an issue in higher education with a focus on the start of the academic year, and of the design team to manage client expectations.  Fortunately, the client for Guy’s Tower had taken the view that timetable was of second importance to finding the best solution and to minimise risk, especially in an occupied building. 


The good news is that most projects do go well.  The few that go badly are a few too many. The aim should be to ensure that risk is managed so that all projects are successful.   


Many thanks to the speakers and to AECOM for sponsoring the event. 

Credit: Simon Fraser
Credit: Simon Fraser

Is the Lecture Theatre dead? 


Debate and Discussion on the design of teaching spaces at Bush House, King’s College London on 31st October


At HEDQF’s annual conference in July 2017, Jane Bunce gave a presentation on the new campus for the University of Northampton, which is being designed with new collaborative and interactive forms of teaching, and not a traditional lecture theatre in sight.


Is this the start of a new trend?  Is the lecture theatre dead? 


The new Harvard-style lecture theatre at Bush House was filled by around 80 university and design professionals to discuss the future of the lecture theatre.  Is it dead, or is it transforming?  Some universities are still building them – but will they be extinct in a decade or two as new forms of teaching take over?


Chaired by Ian Caldwell, presentations from Keith Papa, Head of Science, Research and Technology at BDP, Andrew Harrison, Director, Spaces that Work & Professor of Practice at University of Wales, Trinity St David and Professor Andrew George, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education and International) at Brunel University, London explored current trends in lecture theatres and teaching spaces from different perspectives, looking at the new generation of spaces being created in universities and also in commercial creative organisations, the role and design of the 21st century lecture theatre.  Andrew George drew this together with a description of what Brunel is planning with its new teaching building, which will complement its Brutalist centrepiece at the heart of its campus (and which featured as the sanatorium in the film Clockwork Orange).  One of the key successes of Brunel is in widening participation and its teaching and learning spaces have to be designed to support, encourage and foster ambition in students from all walks of life. 


Universities in Australia are repurposing old lecture theatres to create more flexible spaces, but one of the key lessons is that the new generation of teaching rooms require more space per person; utilisation therefore needs to go up to justify the investment in space.  There is still a role for the lecture theatre as a place for inspirational and inspiring exchange of knowledge and, at the end of the day, memories are about the lecturer, not about the space.   


The lively debate examined the role of technology and the need to support academic staff in changes of delivery, the fact that technology, pedagogy and architecture are not quite yet aligned, (too often the technology is added once the space is designed), and the importance of daylight and transparency – so that there is connectivity to adjacent spaces and perhaps also to adjacent communities.   Lectures should be on show as a key part of academic life, not hidden in darkened underground bunkers.


The view was that news of the death of the lecture theatre is premature; it is not dead, but is slowly evolving in a variety of ways.   This is no doubt a discussion which will continue into the future. 


The debate was followed by a tour of the newly refurbished spaces in Bush House, formerly the HQ of the BBC World Service where new teaching and learning spaces have been designed in contrast to the more traditional ones across the Strand in the half of the campus and drinks in the flexible space on the 8th floor.   And, yes, there is a lecture theatre, but it has been designed with the flexibility to also be a performance space. 


Thanks to the speakers, to Overbury for sponsoring the drinks and to John Robertson Architects and LTS Architects for the building tours.  

Credit: Simon Fraser
Credit: Simon Fraser

Visit to the University of Kent - Canterbury Campus on 13th September 2017


Where: Sibson Building, University of Kent, Canterbury, CT2 7FS 


HEDQF visited the University of Kent’s Canterbury Campus, looking at recent projects to expand and update the campus founded some fifty years ago in 1965.  From a start of only 500 students and 150 staff, the University has grown to a major institution of over 20,000 students and over 4,000 staff.


Director of Estates, Peter Czarnomski, explained the University’s recent exercise to develop future plans to update and expand the campus to accommodate growth, one of the major advantages being that the relationship with local communities had been enhance through the extensive consultation with them, whereas 50 years ago there was a feeling that the university had been imposed on them.


Visits to recent projects included the 1960’s Brutalist Templeman Library at the heart of the campus which has been transformed with phased extension and refurbishment to accommodate new ways of study and learning, with the challenge of remaining in use throughout, the Widoger Law Building which accommodates a Moot Court and Law Clinic and the Sibson Building which has successfully brought together two Schools – Business and Mathematics - into one 8.000 sq m interconnected building, around a central atrium, achieving a more successful building than if the two had been separate and encouraging academic synergies and enabling sharing of learning and teaching spaces, all set within woodland on the northern edge of the campus.


Paul Verrion, School Manager of Kent Business School, Ian Goodfellow of Penoyre & Prasad and Adam Worrall of Willmott Dixon Construction will provide insight into the challenges and opportunities of bringing the two schools together and of delivering, in a live campus environment, the largest new building since the founding of the University.  It was encouraging to hear about and experience the dedication to achieving quality in the new building, even though it was procured at a difficult time of rising prices in the building industry. 


Thanks to the University of Kent, the speakers, Ian Goodfellow for organising the day and to Willmott Dixon for sponsoring the visit.

Evening Seminar & Visit


Moving off campus – challenges and opportunities 


When: 5 September 2017, 18.00-20.00

Where: UCL School of Management, Level 38, One Canada Square, London E14 5AA


With space at a premium, especially on constrained urban estates, many universities are looking to move their facilities elsewhere. Following UCL School of Management’s relocation from Bloomsbury to Canary Wharf, this seminar explored the challenges and opportunities of creating a functional, high quality, self-contained space off of the main campus. With a design approach that responds cleverly to the brief, the School of Management provides an exemplary environment for learning, teaching and working. 


Key speakers:

Julian Robinson, Director of Estates, LSE (Chairman)

Justine Fletcher, Estate Strategy Manager, UCL

Bert de Reyck, Professor and Director of School of Management, UCL

Matthew Goulcher, Managing Director, Levitt Bernstein

Third HEDQF Annual Conference


Breaking the Mould: Universities Supporting Industry, Enterprise and Innovation


When: 5 July 2017

Where: University of Sheffield


Government policy and capital funding is increasingly focussed on universities supporting enterprise, innovation and manufacturing, all the more so with BREXIT.  Join colleagues to hear how these changes are being embraced within universities and industry and what it means for the design of university campuses. 


Based in the “Diamond”, The University of Sheffield’s new £81 million undergraduate engineering building, the Conference looked at examples from the UK and abroad, including the University of Sheffield’s world-leading Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, in partnership with 90 companies from Boeing, Rolls Royce, BAE systems and Aerospace to small local companies and the University of Falmouth’s new enterprise centres in Cornwall.   


Teaching is changing also, responding to competition and student demands.  Learn how the new campus for Northampton University is reshaping how teaching is provided to students, without lecture theatres, and, looking at non-traditional models, how the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology is developing its new private university in Malmesbury, Wiltshire.


View the post-conference report here.

Evening Workshop


Extending Stakeholder Engagement


When: 24 May 2017, 17.00 - 19.00

Where: ResoLex, 70 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1EU



Julian Robinson from LSE discussing collaboration in design development at our RADAR Roundtable, jointly hosted by ResoLex and HEDQF.


Day Visit


WU Vienna


When: Thursday 4 May 2017, 14:00-18:00

Where: The Vienna University of Economics and Business, Welthandelsplatz 1 1, 1020 Wien


A joint Higher Education Design Quality Forum and Association of University Directors of Estates venture to the striking new Campus WU.  

This was a fantastic opportunity to join fellow members of AUDE and the HEDQF to visit the new WU campus which represents an important step in the University's development. The trip included a guided tour and presentations by the Vice Rector and Head of Campus and Facilities Management on how the campus aligns with the university’s vision for education and the practical issues of the project. 


Close to the Prater public park, and next to the exhibition centre of Vienna, the campus features six main building complexes resting on approximately ten hectares. The master plan was created by BUSarchitektur under the guidance of the architect Laura Spinadel. The buildings were designed by architectural firms from Spain, the UK, Germany, Japan and Austria. The dominant element of the campus is the Library and Learning Centre, by the late Zaha Hadid. ‘The WU Campus is a special place for research and education with a unique atmosphere. This exceptionality shall be reflected in the countenance of its architecture. The university complex shall be a landmark radiating beyond the city limits. Its architecture shall be conceived as a subject of fascination’ - from the project brief.

Day Visit


Coventry University Building Visit


When: 27 April 2017, 10.00-16.30

Where: Engineering and Computing Building, Coventry University


Coventry University have invested in a major programme of campus regeneration, transforming its largely post war city centre estate into a vibrant state-of-the-art facilities. The visit included tours to the Hub; the heart of student life and Campus health and well-being, as well as informal learning spaces, the dynamic Engineering and Computing building and the newest addition - a new Health and Life Sciences building.



Robert Talliss - Group Director of Estate Development, Coventry University

Heidi Corbet and Nick Gaskell - Hawkins\Brown, The Hub Building

The Hub: Jacqueline Fazakarley, Customer Service Manager, Coventry University

Engineering and Computing Building: Elizabeth Smith, Operations Director, Faculty of Engineering, Environment & Computing

On site: Health and Life Sciences Building, Mark Evans (Broadway Malyan) and Alan Bell (BAM).

Evening Debate


What can Higher Education Institutions and the Private Science Sector learn from each other?


When: 20 April 2017, 17.30

Where: B200 Lecture Theatre, City University London, Northampton Square, London EC1V 0HB


A chaired debate on whether Higher Education Institutes can learn from Independent Research Specialists, and a review of the positive knowledge sharing between the Private Science and Higher Education sectors. Chaired by Kevin Gibbons, Director, Property & Facilities, City University London.



  • Martino Picardo, CEO, Stevenage BioScience Catalyst
  • Prof. Gerry Ackerman, Head of Strategic Partnerships, University College London
  • Nick Benn, Director, BMJ Architects
  • Rob Burborough, Partner, 3PM  
Image credit: Wilkinson Eyre
Image credit: Wilkinson Eyre

Day Visit


Cambridge University


When: 5 April 2017, 10.00 - 18.00

Where: Sainsbury Laboratory, Bateman Street, Cambridge, CB2 1LR


A day-long exploration of some major established and new buildings in Cambridge, gaining some insights into some of the most ambitious investment plans of any university in the UK.

Included visits to the Stirling Prize-winning Sainsbury Laboratory and the Attenborough Building on the New Museums Site. Lunch at Girton College with an introductory talk by the Mistress, Professor Susan Smith, followed by a talk by Heather Topel on masterplans for West and North-west Cambridge. We visited both of these sites, including tours of the iconic Schlumberger Gould Research Building and the new Maxwell Building for the Cavendish Physics Lab. We also heard about the current £350 million scheme to rebuild the Cavendish on the West Cambridge site.

Evening Visit


FUTURE + HERITAGE SYNERGY: 20th Century heritage reinvigorated for 21st Century student and academic needs 


When: 16 February 2017, from 17.00

Where: School of Oriental and African Studies, Paul Webley Wing, North Block, London, WC1E 7HX


A tour explaining how the School of Oriental and African Studies requirements for a new student hub, teaching, study and academic spaces were accommodated within an iconic Grade II listed building in the hear of Bloomsbury Conversation Area, creating a modern and enlivened student-academic centre as a focal point for its centenary celebrations.

Evening Round Table


The UEA Enterprise Centre – A Collaborative Exemplar, 9 February 2017


Professor John French shared his experience of leading this multi award-winning project and the approach he took to managing the stakeholders who included the European Regional Development Fund, BRE, Norwich Research Park, BBSRC, UEA and incoming start-up clients




The challenges and complexities of academic space, 8 February 2017, University of Reading


The sector continues to wrestle with the tension between open/collaborative spaces and traditional cellular offices. Academia is sometimes referred to as the last bastion of the old notion of an enclosed office. This can be a difficult and controversial subject and this debate used case studies and experiences to illustrate good practice.

Evening Debate


Achieving high-performance buildings: What can the higher education sector and the private sector learn from each other?, 25 January 2017

Buro Four, 1 Naoroji Street, London, WC1X 0GB

Listed buildings in universities: opportunities and challenges (01 November 2016)


More than thirty members of HEDQF gathered in the magnificent surroundings of the Queen Anne Wing of the University of Greenwich’s campus in the Old Royal Naval College to consider the issue of listed buildings and their role in the higher education estate. 


The meeting had three themes. The first was the way in which the University of Greenwich had adapted the Grade I buildings by Wren, superbly located by the Thames, for educational use. Michael Flanagan, Director of Estates and Facilities at Greenwich, who was our host for the afternoon, took us through the history of the site and also explained that, after fifteen years of occupation, the University is now working up a scheme for refurbishment in which design detail will be crucial. Michael and his colleagues also led us on a fascinating tour, including the undercroft (above) and the stair (pictured below), which leads to what must be one of the most spectacular Vice Chancellor’s Offices in the UK. 


The second presentation turned our attention to the wider context of listing nationally. Dr Roger Bowdler (Director of Listing at Historic England) took us through the history of listing and the current processes involved. Roger emphasized his keenness to engage with universities in both masterplanning and the likelihood of future listings and the detailed consideration of individual schemes.


The third element of the programme was a fascinating presentation by Amir Ramezani of Avanti Architects on their scheme for the Florey Building at Queen’s College, Oxford. Designed by James Stirling and opened in 1971, the building has 75 student rooms located on a site by the Cherwell. Controversial from the start, the now-listed building is soon to be renovated, with a degree of internal reorganisation and external addition. 


The meeting concluded with an excellent round table discussion chaired by Julian Robinson (LSE) when the speakers were joined by Richard Brookes of Turley and Pia Berg of Penoyre Prasad.


We are most grateful to the University of Greenwich for hosting a very successful meeting and to Turley for their generous sponsorship of refreshments before and afterwards.


All photo credits, Simon Fraser.


Philip Ogden

Chair, HEDQF


Photo Credit: Simon Fraser

Future Campus – The University of the Future, 12 July 2016 


Our second annual conference at UAL.


Click here for further details of all past and upcoming conferences.

Photo credit: Ben Bisek for WilkinsonEyre

Oxford, 17 March 2016 

The day included tours of: 

  • Weston Library: New public areas, reading rooms & special collections archive (Giles Gilbert Scott, 1924. Remodelled by WilkinsonEyre, 2014)
  • Radcliffe Observatory Quarter 
  • Blavatnik School of Government (Herzog de Meuron Architects, 2015)
  • Mathematics Building (Rafael Viñoly  Architects, 2013)
  • Middle East Centre, St Antony's College (Zaha Hadid Architects, 2015)
  • Biochemistry Building (Hawkins Brown, 2008)
  • Earth Sciences Building (WilkinsonEyre, 2010)

Dublin, 8 December 2015


When the bottom dropped out of the Celtic Tiger in 2008, Dublin Institute of Technology’s dream of building a new campus in the grounds of a former mental asylum seemed doomed.  However a Public-Private Partnership initiative came to the rescue of the Moore Ruble Yudell masterplan and the Grangegorman project is now well underway.


In December last year, a twenty-five strong group from the Higher Education Design Quality Forum toured the newly landscaped, inner city campus and learned about the city planning background, the complex PPP procurement model and DIT’s approach to design management. The scheme involves the provision of new science and arts faculties, a student hub, a replacement psychiatric hospital, a health centre and school in and around the historic Grangorman buildings. The former Dublin City Planner, Dick Gleeson and key members of the development team shared their experience with the group (including estates staff from a number of UK universities including London, Leeds and Plymouth) and discussed lessons learned.


A briefing note with key findings is to be published soon.


In contrast with DIT’s ground-breaking campus development, the HEDQF were also invited to visit three libraries at Trinity College Dublin. The three represented varying stages of Trinity’s grand history: the antique Old Library with its high barrel vault, the brutally horizontal arrangement of the Berkeley Library designed by Ahrends Burton & Koralek in the 1960s and the box-witihin-a-box Long Room Hub, completed in 2011. Each of these superb projects reflects how knowledge was stored and disseminated, at the time of conception, in their own exquisite manner.


Manchester, 16 June 2015

First Annual Conference - The University and the City


This conference was organised together with the Manchester School of Architecture, which is part of both Manchester University and Manchester Metropolitan University and is located in The Corridor, a unique business location in 243 acres at the heart of Manchester’s knowledge economy, the largest academic campus in the UK and the largest clinical academic campus in Europe.


During the day, conference sessions and discussion explored and debated aspects of those relationships in Manchester, elsewhere in Great Britain, and internationally and considered the role that design and sustainability have in achieving success and reinforcing the identity of the city-university partnership. Students gave insights into their experiences and the conference fostered a discussion on how to join up development sites for the benefit of the people who live and work in the city and for the university. Delegates also had the opportunity to take part in optional tours of adjacent projects.

Regent Street Cinema, London - 9 September 2015

- Bringing new life to Britain's first cinema through a sensitive adaptation and restoration


This popular visit took place at the University of Westminster. In its earlier guise as the original Polytechnic Institution, the venue became the first place in Britain to show moving pictures to a paying audience in 1896 when the Lumière brothers used their new Cinématographe. Following a major project, the University re-opened the Regent Street Cinema in May 2015 as 'the birthplace of British cinema'.


This subject proved of great interest to participants because it covered issues relating to planning, viable business uses, financing arrangements, intricate and sympathetic design, equipment, and an interior intervention that helped to convey the cinema's story. The ultimate objective of creating a facility that meets the demands of the modern film industry, as well as the use of historic projection methods, has been achieved. It is one of the few in the country to show 16mm and 35mm film as well as the latest in 4K digital film. The 187-seat Regent Street Cinema is an outlet for students, researchers and senior academics engaged in the University’s programmes for film production and cinematography, and creates a unique bridge to the international film world. Events held there range from repertory screenings and premieres through to documentaries and animation. 


The setting is of a classic cinema with echoes of the late Victorian and Edwardian periods that also has shades of more recent eras too. Originally built in 1848, the Regent Street building had a strong connection with innovation from the very start. The Polytechnic pioneered many forms of invention and discovery and in recent years the space had become used as a lecture hall. The University was supported in the £6m cinema project by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Quintin Hogg Trust, the Garfield Weston Foundation and many others. It took three years in the planning and business case preparation and then eighteen months on site to complete the works.


The HEDQF visit to the cinema took the form of a welcome address from the University's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Geoff Petts, followed by a series of presentations from the project delivery team which included the architect, Tim Ronalds, and the main contractor, Overbury. 

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