London College of Fashion, part of University of the Arts London (UAL), is moving from six separate buildings currently spread across London to an inclusive and sustainable new, single site. Opening in autumn 2023, it will be one of the largest higher education buildings in an urban location to be BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ and deploy natural ventilation.
London College of Fashion (LCF), UAL, leads the world in fashion business, media and design education, and has nurtured creative talent for over a century by offering courses in all things fashion. Its new home – set at the core of the vibrant East Bank regeneration – will sit among global cultural brands such as Sadler’s Wells, the BBC and V&A East. The landmark development will offer 36,000m² of inspirational space for learning with lecture theatres, studios, galleries and interactive showcase areas across 15 floors.
This new building, which will be a hub for the future of fashion research, education and innovation, is the work of a design and delivery team including architect firm Allies and Morrison, cost consultant Gardiner & Theobald and construction project manager Mace. It will be capable of accommodating a variety of different uses and specialist zones, thanks to innovative, integrated solutions from global engineering consultancy Buro Happold.
Buro Happold’s involvement in the new facility builds upon its impressive knowledge of the East London area, dating back to 2003 and its involvement in the masterplan for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and legacy planning.
BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ certification was something the university called for in the original design brief and was met with positivity by the client – London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC). The university had recently demonstrated how to deliver a BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ building at the Wimbledon College of Art and continues to be committed to its buildings being leading examples of sustainable design.
“We knew from day one that this was the LLDC’s goal, so it was at the forefront of our minds at every stage of design,” says Damian Wines, Associate Director at Buro Happold.
The close-knit project team worked together with end-users, LLDC and its partner London College of Fashion, UAL, to understand the use of each space within the facility over a typical 10-week term. By developing an energy model for the facility, the project team was able to create a servicing strategy that would benefit productivity and creativity for each user, while optimising energy consumption.
Wines adds: “From our early discussions, we learnt that certain spaces, such as practical workshop areas, might be used less intensively early in the term but increase dramatically later on when assignments and deadlines are due. With the client’s commitment to sustainability clear from the outset, building management systems and lighting controls were incorporated into the design to ensure demand-led energy savings were achieved. It’s made a significant difference and means we’re on track to achieve BREEAM ‘Outstanding’.”
For example, understanding how each space would be used was crucial to delivering on the client’s wish to pursue natural ventilation where possible. Extensive energy modelling and analysis ensured the team could optimise the building orientation and window placement to allow maximum passive ventilation and take advantage of natural lighting.
This combination presented a challenge, however: allowing enough windows to be fitted for natural ventilation while preventing too much solar gain. Buro Happold carried out a glaze and glare analysis to find the optimal solution, as Wines explains: “The architect’s vision was to deliver a 21st-century workshop with a Victorian-style facade, which referenced 19th-century mill buildings commonly seen in the UK’s industrial regions, including Stratford and surrounding areas, as a nod to its industrial heritage.
“Similar style facades can still be seen today in Hackney Wick and Fish Island. These types of buildings often have a generous floor-to-ceiling height, which allows a lot of natural daylight. We were keen to capitalise on this, which is why we pursued a passive energy management system from the start of the project.”
The overall strategy means the building will achieve an impressive 39% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, well above and beyond the target stipulated under Part L of the Building Regulations for Stage 4 design. Over a 60-year lifecycle, embodied carbon will be reduced by 19%.
At the ‘Heart’ of learning
Allies and Morrison’s vision included a central atrium and circulation space known as the ‘Heart’, which will offer open spaces for learning and social interaction. Buro Happold brought this to life by devising a concrete frame consisting of a system of columns and beams, separating the Heart from surrounding workshop spaces. This structure not only provides primary stability for the facility, but allows the surrounding areas to remain flexible for a range of services.
One of the biggest challenges presented by the design was sound. “We knew how important it was to deliver a space that would support open-plan teaching and collaborative discussion, and that meant getting the level of acoustics absolutely right,” says Wines.
Buro Happold’s acoustic engineers used extensive 3D ray-tracing modelling to demonstrate to the client and key stakeholders that a little background noise is beneficial, as this allows more private or one-to-one discussions to be masked. Where necessary, however, sound-absorbing materials were employed to ensure speech between teachers and their clusters remains intelligible without becoming a distraction to others.
“We visited a range of similar facilities to set the benchmarks we needed to develop the perfect acoustic space and built this into the model,“ adds Wines. “Then it was a case of adding the required acoustic elements into the design to control background noise.”
A lesson in collaboration
Once complete, this new world-leading facility will host around 6500 students and staff. It will be the realisation of a building that wouldn’t have been possible without close collaboration between the large project team, the client LLDC, its partners, stakeholders and the end-users.
“Establishing clear channels for communication really did contribute to the success of the project. With so many different disciplines involved, from facade engineering to lighting design, having consistent points of contact was essential, and getting those in place really has paid off,” says Duncan Campbell, Buro Happold’s Discipline Lead for London Building Environments.
London College of Fashion’s new building is due to open its doors in 2023 and will welcome top talent from around the world to study, teach and research fashion in one of the capital’s most up-and-coming areas.