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Manchester Engineering Campus Development (MECD), Manchester

A collaborative learning and research environment

The Manchester Engineering Campus Development (MECD) is one of the single, largest construction projects undertaken by any UK higher education institution. The development for the University of Manchester will provide over 75,000m2 of modern facilities in a bespoke environment, to support world leading research and an outstanding teaching and learning experience for more than 8,000 students and staff.

Arup has been working with the University of Manchester since 2014 to deliver the multidisciplinary building and specialist engineering services for the MECD site. The campus will help transform how education is delivered, bringing together the four engineering and material science departments into one coherent facility.

Sat at the heart of the University of Manchester’s campus, MECD represents a £420m investment to support an integrated academic community, create opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration, enhance the student experience and maximise space efficiency. Designed with this in mind, the buildings will house a variety of advanced technologies and equipment to help the University achieve its goal of becoming one of the top 25 research universities in the world.

Engineering from start to finish

The building servicing strategy provides environmental conditions to support the most advanced research and high specification scientific equipment, whilst maximising the use of natural ventilation and daylighting.

Our team of structural engineers developed a simple robust armature for the various activities in the buildings that responds to the University’s future adaptability requirements. Spatial flexibility has been balanced with achieving the vibration performance requirements for high specification measurement and imaging equipment.

A site this large, however, doesn’t come without its complications. On commencement of the project, our civil engineering team quickly confirmed that the main building straddles a 3.6m diameter sewer. By building over the sewer, we could maximise the utilisation of the site. Early identification of this issue, rapid development of the structural options and specific assessment of the loading from the structure on the sewer, enabled us to engage with the utilities provider and obtain permission to facilitate building within the easement zone.

Designing sympathetically and sustainably

Designed with a target of BREEAM ‘Excellent’ in mind, the sustainability of the campus development has been addressed throughout. A fabric first energy hierarchy has been followed, with numerous aspects of energy saving and efficiency being incorporated. These efforts have set the foundation for MECD to be an extremely efficient campus, delivering the required spaces and performance whilst having significantly reduced emissions.

This was of the utmost importance for the renovation of the grade II listed Oddfellows Hall, where developing a design that was sympathetic to the heritage of the original building - yet also brought the facilities up to a modern standard - was key to the University’s vision for MECD. The heritage features of the original building are complemented by a new build extension with new building services throughout.

A mixed mode solution was developed for the extension, with openable low-level windows and actuated high-level windows to allow natural ventilation to be utilised when conditions are suitable, along with the installation of active chilled beams to provide heating and comfort cooling when required. Together with a high-performance façade (with low U-values to reduce heating demand), this has ensured Oddfellows and its extension provides the highest levels of efficiency for the University.

Digital delivery

BIM was used for engagement throughout the design process and to capture the University’s requirements. The 3D models allowed both the design team and contractor to analyse the cross-discipline coordination of the site within a common viewing platform, ensuring the reduction of risk and the mitigation of any costly changes.

Through the use of digital tools, our teams have been able to ensure delivery on budget. Regular review meetings where the BIM models and design information could be virtually interrogated via 3D modelling, enabled the cost consultant and contractor to ensure all elements and changes were accounted for leading to a more streamlined and robust cost process.


Pedestrian circulation through the two largest buildings has also been simulated, modelling a day in the life of MECD in close consultation with project stakeholders. Dynamic analysis was undertaken using our bespoke pedestrian and crowd simulation software MassMotion, enabling smoother pedestrian flows and clearer wayfinding. This led to important design decisions being made such as vistas being opened up into the laboratory and workshop spaces.

Our electromagnetic specialists worked closely with other teams to carry out electromagnetic surveys. Using computational electromagnetic modelling, we were able to inform the design of bespoke passively shielded electron microscope rooms to enable them to be viewed at from the outside, helping to achieve the university’s vision for openness.

Achieving 'total design'

The project is an exemplar of our ‘total design’ ethos, working collaboratively with our clients and contractors, and forming unique and open relationships to improve project outcomes. Together, we are achieving design surety and cost certainty whilst enhancing the student experience.

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