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Nottingham Science Park

2005-2008

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A science park that is responsive to the nature of the site in which it resides.
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A science park that is responsive to the nature of the site in which it resides.

Strategy

Science parks are often driven solely by site efficiency and building economics, resulting in environments that show little concern for/interaction with the aesthetic parkland within which they sit. These mono-use places are usually conservative in design, interchangeable, featureless and anonymous. The space left over after the develop(able) grid is determined is usually given over to surface car parking. The pedestrian experience is compromised, and the landscape becomes suburban.

Client:
Blueprint
Role:
Urban Designer, Architect
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The views across the site, prior to our framework

At Nottingham Science Park, the first built Studio Egret West project completed over a decade ago, we wanted to do things differently to help raise the bar for science parks globally, and we were fortunate to work with a Client - Blueprint – who shared our vision. Our response began with developing a framework that intentionally challenged the traditional approach to a ‘science park’, adopting an outward looking approach, not introvert.

The result is a series of buildings with long wings that stretch into and embrace the surroundings, from the tennis centre and boating lake to the neighbouring university and business centre. A science park that is responsive to the nature of the site in which it resides, slopes, pools, drains and brook, and creating a stimulating ‘open plan’ environment designed for use by people to enhance wellbeing and creativity.

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Framework
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The site following completion of the first phase

As part of our role, we also delivered the first “exemplar” building, No. 1 Nottingham Science Park, which houses innovative businesses within self-contained, highly flexible Grade A office space. Fully let since completion, the building and wider framework has acted as a catalyst to allow science to play a big part in Nottingham’s future economy. Having turned a contaminated site into an exciting cutting edge development, Nottingham Science Park was one of the country’s first environmentally sustainable business parks, and is now the destination of choice for the city’s hi-tech, R&D and envirotech businesses.

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The first “exemplar” building, No. 1 Nottingham Science Park

Specificity

One of the first key moves in developing the framework was to avoid the customary surface car parking and instead tuck parking decks efficiently below the buildings, which are then hidden by landscape bunds (at no additional cost to conventional surface car parking). Not only did this provide the benefit of guarding against flooding whilst aiding security and privacy, but fundamentally, by avoiding a surface of tarmac, we were able to release the centre of the site for a central wetland that links the nearby Highfields Park and Dunkirk Pond.

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From this green gateway and inspired by the plethora of lily pads we found in Dunkirk Pond, we proposed a north-south path of interlocking wooden lily pads – the ‘path of the unknown scientist’. With no perimeter fence, the path encourages students, scientists, families, bird watchers and cyclists alike to enjoy an ecological walk from the neighbouring university campus and an established nature reserve.

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The spine winds through a species rich wildflower meadow and has decked spaces for sitting, meeting and relaxing. It has a more amenity character towards the north where it engages with the park and a more ecological character to the south as it merges with the wetland habitat of Dunkirk Pond.
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Axonometric of No. 1 Nottingham Science Park

Our detailed designs for the exemplar building, No. 1 Nottingham Science Park, embody the framework principles, with vertical strip cladding of dark green, mid-green, yellow, orange and cream hues. It has a simple H-shaped plan with splayed wings of business space on two floors above car parking. From the lily pads, none of the basement car parking is visible, because the slight slope in the ground has been exploited by bringing cars in at the rear.

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No. 1 Nottingham Science Park Cladding

The offices stretch nearly the full 16m width of the wings, as the narrow corridors are tucked in at one side and windows in their internal partitions bring in daylight. The central bar connecting the four wings contains the shared reception, meeting rooms and circulation spaces.

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It is a prerequisite of the framework that each new building implement a similar arrangement to maintain the integrity of the framework and the environment of the wider science park.

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Sustainability

Nottingham Science Park has been designed as a naturalistic environment to reduce its impact and carbon footprint. Prior to our work, the 3.6ha site was an industrial area so contaminated and prone to flooding that it had lain vacant for decades. Instead of capping the site with a concrete slab, we worked with Grant Associates to seal the contamination beneath a membrane, and left the rest open to flooding from the nearby river. The framework and building design respond to the site conditions in a sustainable way by maximising the use of sun and natural ventilation, and by giving protection from prevailing winds.

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The site under construction
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The habitat of the former Beeston railway sidings, abandoned over 40 years ago and now supporting over 550 species of flora and fauna, are extended through to the park. The reed beds of the landscape perform the practical function of a sustainable urban drainage system, or SUDS, and the whole scheme is supported by a combined heat and power plant, powered by a wood pellet boiler. The northern boundary of the site is bordered by mature trees along University Boulevard which shield the park from the passing traffic. The lily walk is also a pedestrian route to the buildings on the park as well as being a place to sit and enjoy the wet land area and its wildlife.

As well as its eye-catching, award winning design, the first completed phase, No. 1 Nottingham Science Park incorporates a range of sustainable features, including a brown roof aiding insulation and encouraging biodiversity, a biomass heating system, natural ventilation aided at peak times by a water based adiabatic cooling system, use of sustainable materials, and optimisation of natural light. At the time of completion, is the only building of its kind in Nottingham to have achieved an A-Rated Energy performance Certificate. The building significantly reduces operational costs for occupiers and reduces carbon emissions by around 60% from the 1997 building regulations standards. The project has won numerous awards for design excellence including the UK Science Park Association Award for innovative design in environmental sustainability in 2009.

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Team