by Liam Goodman
From the huge biodiversity of plant life across its campuses to the complete usage of renewable energy since 2016, UWE has a lot to be proud of in its sustainability efforts. The School of Engineering is the latest, and perhaps most impressive feat that they have accomplished yet.
The exterior is industrial by design. Perpendicular walls and pillars with a rusty orange tone surround a black, glass-clad centre, merging the past and present. Complete with its immense scale, the structure is a sight to behold, with a lot to say about humanity’s relationship with innovation.
Inside, the industrial feeling is replaced by a modern art vibe. Plastic ammonites hang from the ceiling by futuristic steel coils. Earth tones, wood, and carpet give a certain warmth to the foyer. Signage calling attention to humanity’s journey “from the Stone Age to the Space Age” is proudly framed with copper piping.
The School of Engineering has the science to back its promises of sustainability up and has won multiple awards from the British Construction Industry Awards. The innovative use of glass on the roof of the central atrium allows for plenty of natural light to fill the building, reducing the use of electrical lighting. In addition to this, windows automatically open and close in reaction to temperature, and a fan system sucks out hot air (as opposed to old fashioned air conditioning), helping to save the environment and some money as well.
At the heart of the building is a hub designed for group study. This, along with a wealth of other features, was designed with student collaboration in mind. The fact that discussion and working together is valued so highly at UWE is just one of the many reasons why this new building works so well. Students pool their resources and work for higher goals as a community.
The crowning achievement is the Digital Engineering area, which focuses on preparing engineers of the future for the modern industrial revolution, Industry 4.0. With a million-pound government grant behind it, the technology is nothing short of astounding. Simulators, both on screen and in virtual reality, allow students to work with prototypes interactively and without waste. 3D printed plastic components produce minimal wastage and maximum results, especially when the assembly lines putting them together are automatic and have computer simulated virtual twins. The cyberphysical lab factories are modular, so hardware can be upgraded to fit technological innovation. On top of this, the technicians that instruct students are from both academia and industry, giving the best of qualification and experience that Bristol has to offer.
This technology isn’t just open to engineering students, either. Societies often make use of the simulators, and creative students love to use the virtual reality cave to create collaborative work, which just goes to show how widely applicable the benefits of this step into the future is.