University celebrates building milestone as new West Downs Centre formally handed over

15 Jun 2020
Architect's impression looking out of the building into the courtyard garden with a pond and green trees and planting

The University of Winchester's landmark learning and teaching building at its West Downs Quarter has been formally handed over to the University by construction company Osborne, just over two years after the groundbreaking ceremony in January 2018.

"It is a huge thrill to now have ownership of our fantastic new West Downs Centre which has been delivered within budget. I want to thank everyone who has been involved for all their hard work to get us to this point," said Professor Joy Carter CBE, DL, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Winchester.

"These new state-of-the-art facilities will provide an outstanding learning environment for future generations of students here at Winchester. It will be home to our growing portfolio of programmes, including digital and computer-related degree courses and health and wellbeing programmes," Professor Carter added.

The West Downs Centre is due to open for teaching in September, when the University plans to welcome returning and new students for the start of the academic year. The plans are being guided by Government advice with a range of appropriate measures to keep students and staff safe, including a blend of classroom-based and online teaching. The building boosts available teaching space by 20 per cent, which will help in implementing appropriate social distancing measures.

In the lead up to September, the University is undertaking the internal fit out of the building, which is designed by award-winning Winchester-based architects Design Engine. The building features an art gallery; a 250-seat auditorium; a café and food hall; contemplation space; courtyard garden, teaching spaces and library.

The flagship development is already the holder of a number of 'firsts': it is among one of the first university projects in the UK to be registered to pursue WELL Certification, an accreditation scheme which recognises buildings that support and advance human health and wellbeing. Winchester is also the first UK university to secure Green finance for campus development, with a £30m loan from Triodos Bank, Europe's leading sustainable bank.

Computers inside West Downs library

With numerous sustainable features, rainwater recycling, solar photo voltaic panels, a combined heat and power system and smart building management, the West Downs Centre is also set to achieve the 'Excellent' rating of the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM). BREEAM is the benchmark standard for the construction of environmentally sustainable buildings in the UK.

Richard Jobson, founding Director of Design Engine Architects, said: "It has been a privilege to work with the University on this fantastic project and to continue to help them realise their vision for creating a world class university in Winchester. The new building has taken over seven years to design and build and has involved hundreds of people in its creation from the early conceptual sketches and models right through to the craftspeople on site who help build it, and whilst we are currently in uncharted waters, we hope that, in time, the building will make a positive contribution to the lives of both the staff and students using it every day and to the wider public."

Andy Steele, CEO at Osborne, said: "I am delighted our business has been part of the creation of such an impressive learning and teaching facility. It also marks another fabulous outcome from the valued and rewarding relationship with the University of Winchester.

"In our drive to be a sustainable business we recognise that the impact of what we do goes far beyond the physical build. How we behave, how we treat others in our work and public communities, how we learn, develop and innovate has far reaching impacts on society.

"Our Learning Organisation culture is the foundation of driving continuous improvement and innovation; the onset of Covid-19 albeit enormous has simply been another step on that journey of learning and adapting to uncertainty and new challenges.

"Adversity has sparked a great period of innovation in how people can work, in both their day-to-day lives and with remote meetings. The solutions implemented may not be perfect but they've shown us what is possible and practical. A very fitting start for a fabulous space that I am certain will inspire the next generation of innovators."

Seating area in the West Downs Lounge

The University hopes to host the official opening and inauguration of the new building in 2021, at a date to be confirmed.

To find out more about the development at West Downs, visit:

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