Creation of a new state of the art teaching and learning building
The Oculus was needed to provide a striking and technologically advanced teaching building, housing seminar rooms, learning spaces and the university's 500-seat lecture theatre. The facility was needed to be high quality, sustainable and completed in time for the new academic year, within the challenge of a fixed budget.
I think it's a great resource for the University. It has wonderful natural light inside, and I was struck by how quickly students could be found working together in the areas outside the formal teaching rooms. I defy anyone to not be impressed when they first go into the large lecture theatre.
Professor Tom Marsh
Achieving the design aspirations presented a key challenge, notably in bridging the gap between the standard approach desired by the design and build contractor, and the high design quality desired by the university within the available timescale and budget.
A further challenge was building a relationship with a new-in-post client contact and maintaining stakeholder interest to achieve the required input and sign-off within a tight timeframe.
Also, given The Oculus was intended to be used by people from all areas of the campus, clear lines of communication across wide ranging user groups were essential to gaining wide buy-in.
We undertook a detailed stakeholder mapping exercise to outline internal and external groups and explain interrelationships between them. This map outlined reporting protocols and communication channels - streamlining the process of engaging stakeholders and keeping them informed of progress.
We also undertook a collaborative approach through the NEC contract, to capture and qualify the client’s expectations and support the contractor's team in providing the quality of information required by the client.
Through forward planning and close liaison with the contractor, we were able to address issues regarding programme and cost increase collaboratively before they could impact on the project.
Becoming hugely popular upon completion, The Oculus received the 2017 Celebrating Construction Value award, along with shortlistings including the RICS West Midlands Design Through Innovation and the NEC Large Project of the Year prizes.