22nd July Journal Column

Web-LogoBy Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

Most of us live and work in our own little bubble, it’s where we feel at home and most comfortable, but, thanks to new innovations, the expression will soon become reality.

An eco-friendly “bubble” building has been built in Newcastle, to be used as a permanent heated office space. The building is Newcastle university’s first building at Science Central, Newcastle’s innovation hub.

The building, called The Key, was constructed using similar technology to that used for the 2012 Olympic Stadium, using a lightweight triple skin fabric structure that is incredibly strong, like a soap bubble.

The building follows a similar principle to the bubbles children make where they pull soap to create huge, long shapes. A soap film will spread naturally between two spaces to cover the smallest achievable surface area. The shape is so strong, that as well as being extremely efficient in terms of minimal materials and space, it is also very resilient – sounds good to me!

We’re always looking for new innovative buildings and break throughs, and this could be exactly what we’ve been waiting for. The facility will be iconic, and will definitely get people talking all around the country – how exciting that the North East is the first place to have a building of this kind?

Science Central is Newcastle’s £350 million flagship project bringing together academia, the public sector, communities, business and industry to create a global centre for urban innovation right here on our doorsteps. It is one of the country’s biggest urban regeneration projects and a ‘living laboratory’, as well as an urban observatory and decision theatre, allowing real time data from the city to be analysed.

Although the inside of the building will be used for teaching and learning, its benefits stretch further than the building itself. The actual structure of the building can be used for teaching, as it presented technical challenges around heating, lighting and insulation itself. The roof is supported by a 10m-high tri-star mast to maximise natural light levels and reduce energy use through passive ventilation.

The fabric used has been designed to have as little impact on the environment as possible. The fabric used is similar to the roof of the 2012 Olympic Stadium, it acts as both cladding and support and is extremely light, meaning heavy materials which have a high carbon footprint, such as steel, are kept to a minimum. The building can also be easily dismantled and relocated to a different site should it be needed somewhere else.

Easily relocated, strong, light and efficient in terms of materials and size? That’s everything ticked off my checklist of the perfect building. I’m looking forward to seeing more of these appear around the country, and also extremely proud the North East were the first to trial something so impressive.