Campus for the Future

Newcastle University's Urban Sciences Building picked up its twelfth accolade at the Green Gown Awards.

The £58 million Urban Sciences Building (USB) scooped the Campus of the Future Award for the building-as-a-lab concept.

Built as a new home for the University's School of Computing at the Newcastle Helix site the USB includes lecture theatres, computer clusters, a café and dozens of spaces for staff and students to work in. The building is also home to the National Green Infrastructure Facility, the National Centre for Energy Systems Integration, the Siemens MindSphere Laboratory and the Urban Observatory.

The extent to which sustainability was incorporated into the USB was the key to the Green Gown Awards success.

Building as a Lab

Dedicated to innovative and interdisciplinary sustainability research and standing as an exemplar for a lower carbon age, the building features a heating system fed by heat pumps, grid-integrated energy storage, photovoltaic (PV) and PV-thermal arrays.

Phil James, Director of the Urban Observatory, explained: "We measure everything that comes into the building and everything that goes out from the building. Millions of data points are collected every day giving us information about all of the systems in the building: power, water usage, drainage, people movement and more.

"This allows us to fully understand how the building operates and how it interacts with the outside world. We also make all of this data freely available through the Urban Observatory so that others can learn, compare and develop upon the insight available from the USB."

Sustainable Development

For the second year running at the 'Green Gowns', finalists mapped their entry against the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Matt Dunlop, the University's Head of Sustainability, said: "We knew that off-the-shelf sustainability evaluations would only take us so far towards our ambitions.

"By asking 'what does sustainability mean to us?' we developed a whole lifecycle, bespoke, sustainability framework for the building. This allowed us to combine traditional sustainability indicators such as energy efficiency with factors such as the global impact of sustainability research.

"The framework we developed is now being used on other projects at the University, helping us to widen the impact of the USB and develop a campus of the future."

The building achieved a BREEAM rating of 'Excellent' including an innovation credit for the energy storage test-bed laboratory on the ground floor of the building.

Teamwork was key

Professor John Fitzgerald, Head of the School of Computing, was a member of the Design and Delivery team for the USB.

He said: "From the outset of this project, we were determined to work across boundaries to deliver a building that worked for everybody.

"All of us - academics, researchers, students, building users, administrators and cleaning staff worked with the architects, contractors and handover teams to bring our vision for the USB to reality."

The USB's neighbour on the Newcastle Helix site is the National Innovation Centre for Data. Set to open in 2020, the Centre will connect businesses, researchers and markets to help the UK to thrive in the global data-driven economy.

"The USB already plays a key role in the region's digital economy. We have been able to work with more industrial partners, develop new lines of research and innovation, train the next generation of technologists better, and host key events. As the National Innovation Centre for Data comes online we'll be able to further grow the reputation of Newcastle as a world leader in computing and digital technology," expanded Prof Fitzgerald.

A full list of winners and more information about the event is available online.

Notes to the Editor

The Green Gown Awards 2018 The 14th edition of the prestigious Green Gown Awards Ceremony gathered 87 finalist institutions in 12 different categories for an unforgettable evening on Thursday 8 November.

Representing over 1 million students, 172,000 staff and a combined annual turnover of £15 billion, these institutions are proving their value to the economy and society. Organised by the EAUC, the Ceremony was held in the home of iconic locomotives and engineering brilliance, The National Railway Museum in York in conjunction with the University of York and York St John University.


  • The USB at Newcastle Helix
  • Architect: Hawkins\Brown
  • Contractor: Bowmer & Kirkland
  • Opened: September 2017, on time, on budget
  • 12,500 sqm

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