A significant infrastructure project for the University of Sheffield providing an onsite Energy Centre for the University’s Western Bank campus.

The building design celebrates Sheffield University’s commitment to promoting sustainability, proudly displaying its mechanical equipment through large, glazed panels.

The Western Bank main campus at the University of Sheffield consists of a series of buildings which house a large proportion of research facilities considered critical to the University reputation. However there was no back-up systems for heating and power in place which contravened European guidelines for certain research facilities where environmental conditions must be maintained within strict limits for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and are independently monitored and licensed by the Home Office. The decision was therefore taken to create a new energy centre housing a combined heat and power facility. The project was driven by the technical requirements of the CHP plant and other equipment therefore HLM worked closely with the services engineers and specialist suppliers from feasibility stage to ensure the complex MEP service needs were fully understood.

Site complexities and the design response

The site is at the base of the Grade II* listed Arts Tower, a 22 storey 1960’s building that HLM restored and remodelled a few years before, gaining the unprecedented approval from English Heritage to completely replace the façade to improve the buildings performance. Works on the Energy Centre therefore impacted on the Grade II* listed structure and involved further discussions with English Heritage and the local conservation team to agree the scope of works. Works to the triangular site were further complicated by its proximity to a main road and busy bus route and a main district heat and power supply pipeline which ran through the site and had to be diverted as part of the enabling works.

To create a high-quality aesthetic that complemented the 1960’s International Style Arts Tower the three-storey design uses corten steel and concrete in vertical ribs. This draws inspiration from the transformer, a key component of the M&E kit inside the building alongside CHP engines and conventional boiler plant, HV equipment and standby generators.

The building design celebrates Sheffield University’s commitment to promoting sustainability. The combination of façade materials replicates the contrast between the heavy grade II* listed wall with the delicacy of the listed Arts Tower fenestration.

Stakeholder engagement

Through detailed stakeholder engagement HLM worked with user groups and the facilities management team to fully understand their operational requirements and ensure the design proposals minimised any disruption to the University. The design proposals considered:

  • both temporary and permanent fire escapes routes
  • access for emergency fire vehicles during construction
  • how delivery routes and pedestrian movement could be maintained during construction
  • diverting the Veolia district heating pipework
  • construction techniques that minimised noise and vibrations that might affect equipment in adjacent laboratories
  • how asbestos removal would be managed
  • protection of the listed building elements on the very constrained site
  • diversion of existing drainage routes across the site
  • how large MEP equipment could be craned into position


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