Frederick Douglass Centre

Constructing Excellence

Situated strategically within the Newcastle Helix development, an award-winning partnership between Newcastle University, Newcastle City Council and Legal and General, aimed at knowledge led regeneration on the former Scottish and Newcastle brewery site the landmark Fredrick Douglas Centre (FDC) facility is fully integrated and enhances the Helix masterplan and site wide strategy.

The (FDC) is a ground-breaking facility for Newcastle University, providing state of the art teaching facilities and a UK first for auditorium design and use, providing a fully automated flexible seminar and conference space for between 250 and 750 users. FDC is innovative in several ways, in particular:

  • around project approach
  • Provision of amenity space
  • maximising the benefit and use of the facilities.

From an integration and collaboration perspective the university set a clear and consistent two stage tendering procurement approach for the Frederick Douglass Centre with its supply chain, from consultant through to sub-contractor. This provided focus on quality and best value over cost. Due to the benefits realised this system and process has been consistently used by the university on further major capital development projects brought to the market.

Leading on from the procurement approach, the client key drivers and value were at the forefront of the development. Specific areas were focused upon to ensure true value was being delivered to the client, stakeholders and end users. An example of this was the collaborative approach to the management of construction works packages through weekly reviews and joint client / contractor interviews for key trades. Another example is the universities auditorium, and the critical achievement of acoustic separation between flexible learning zones through the management and integration of a fully automated separating screen. This was researched extensively to ensure value and performance were not compromised, including joint trips to manufacturers testing facilities in Germany as well as insitu site visits to London. All members of the team were engaged to ensure value was generated.

The FDC also provides the university with clear flexibility as the building can accommodate both the classic lecture teaching as well as enable more organic learning methods, such as breakout groups, self-directed study, and flipped lectures, where the students, not the lecturer, are the focus of attention. It also allows the university to engage directly with the private sector, hiring out the state-of-the-art auditorium space for conferencing requirements. This maximises the use of the auditorium space which is at the heart of the facility.

The FDC has also embedded sustainability as a core design, construction and in-use requirement. A “passive measures first” approach was integrated at the outset to tie in with improving Newcastle University’s position in the ‘green university’ ranking by adopting some of the most successful green building technologies available. This strategy included the use of thermal mass enabling the structure to store heat, providing “inertia” against temperature fluctuations, connecting the building to the site wide CHP network. Providing significant overland flood control and attenuation for the site wide Helix development was also integrated as part of the broader landscaping scheme.

Key Achievements

  • Moveable wall – a first – automated in Europe – but providing the university with immediate and continued flexibility and value
  • Delivered all client aspirations – protecting key project features whilst maintaining project budget
  • Providing the university, a higher than anticipated revenue stream which is being invested directly back into the student experience.