The University of Leeds business school has a new home – the Esther Simpson building. Completed by BAM this summer, it provides collaborative and inclusive learning spaces to better equip students for working in a global environment.  

The interior of the building is exceptional. Spaces include a 240-seater ‘Harvard style’ lecture theatre and a 390-seater traditional tiered lecture theatre, along with two Mock trading room floors which contain continuous ticker tape displays around the perimeter to show stocks and share prices. Multiple general teaching spaces have been provided, plus a computer suite and Café area for students and conference attendees. To ensure the building is future proofed the University has invested in around £1.5million of AV equipment, which will support changes to working and learning practices. 
Following a single stage tender, BAM had a rapid turnaround to begin work on site in November 2019.  Our knowledge was put to the test immediately when reviewing the design, in particular the cast in-situ elements such as the concrete stair cores and subsurface retaining walls. Here, we realised that by re-engineering the stair cores to a steel frame and the sub-surface retaining walls to a contiguously piled wall solution, we could reduce the buildings overall embodied carbon and prevent over 100 vehicle movements. This was of significant benefit to the project, given the University’s sustainability requirements on the scheme. 

The façade of the building is constructed using precast concrete units, which came with pre-installed window units and were manufactured offsite in a factory. Our use of offsite meant that when COVID hit, we were able to maintain production. It also enabled us to have a minimal workforce on site during the installation and still achieve a high quality finish. 

“BAM is delighted to have delivered another exceptional building for the University of Leeds” states Mark Sanderson, BAM’s Project Manager, “Our knowledge has really come to the fore on this scheme enabling us to reduce embodied carbon and deliver a quality finish despite challenging working conditions”  

Externally a comprehensive hard and soft landscape scheme was installed. This was not without its challenge, with the team having work around multiple retained mature trees within the site boundary.  The team also had to install a 19m piece of artwork from Juanjo Novella, which features words from the Poet Laureate, who is based at the University of Leeds. The artwork will mark the new entrance to the University campus  

“We are absolutely delighted with the Esther Simpson building, it is a fabulous building which contributes to the University’s wider ambition to create an environment that promotes learning, innovation and enterprise.” Steve Gilley, Director of Estates, University of Leeds