/ Buildings / Revolutionary ‘Building as a Lab’ Unlocked at Science Central

Revolutionary ‘Building as a Lab’ Unlocked at Science Central

Matt Ball on June 28, 2016 - in Buildings, Design/Engineering, Projects

Newcastle University’s The Key is a unique tensile fabric structure that has been built on the same principles as a soap bubble. Signalling a UK-first for this kind of technology, The Key has been designed as a permanent, heated office space, and highlights the growing demand for sustainable structures in response to factors such as climate change and energy conservation.

Arup and Space Architects worked in close collaboration to deliver this engineering design-led project for Newcastle University. The team used similar techniques and technologies that were developed by the university’s team for the 2012 Olympic Stadium.

“The Key is the culmination of 15 years’ world-leading research on fabric structures at Newcastle University and provides us with a unique, large-scale research facility through detailed environmental and structural monitoring.”

— Peter Gosling, Professor of Computational and Structural Mechanics, Newcastle University

The building incorporates detailed environmental, structural and laser point displacement monitoring and is the University’s first building on Science Central – the city’s new urban innovation hub and an exemplar of urban sustainability.

An elegant, lightweight triple skin fabric structure, it utilises rapid construction and features a dynamic, single, open-plan interior space with a curved ceiling soaring 18 metres high. Its tri-star mast and triple conic forms extend towards the sky maximising natural light levels and reducing energy use through passive ventilation.

“This has been such an exciting project to work on with Newcastle University and Space Architects. Together, we explored ways to push the boundaries of the material’s form and function, resulting in an innovative lightweight fabric structure which performs against stringent environmental criteria. It’s the first of its kind in the North of England to achieve the rigorous Building Regulation energy requirements – firmly positioning Newcastle at the forefront of cutting-edge engineering.”

— Gordon Mungall, structural engineer and associate director, Arup

The Key will be one of the main attractions at this year’sNovel Structural Skins conference, which is being held at Newcastle University on 26-28 October 2016. Keynote speakers include Jan Knippers from the University of Stuttgart, Raul Fanguiero of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art and Arup’s Gordon Mungall.

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