Our project story

Heriot-Watt University.

Higher Education

Dubai, UAE.

Project Lead:
John Wood

An innovative educational export.
Optimised teaching.
Learning collaborative.

Challenge accepted.

The first British university to have a presence in Dubai, Heriot-Watt’s UAE hub has been around since 2005 – quickly outgrowing its Dubai International Academic City campus, far from the heart of the city. Its award-winning, state-of-the-art new site at Dubai Knowledge Park – the only UAE education sector project to achieve LEED Gold certification – capitalises on open-plan design concepts, moving away from cellular teaching. Focusing on laboratories, sound recording studios and workshops – covering energy, robotics, psychology, computer science, IT, VR, and electrical, civil and fluids engineering – we furnished study spaces with the latest technology. This, in turn, will equip nearly 4,000 students representing 105 nationalities with research-informed, industry-focused British education.

Take a look inside

Featured Content Section

We had an extremely specific vision for our new campus – it would be digitally enabled, address the education requirements of the future and create a learning environment that is collaborative.
Lynda Johnstone, Global Director of Estates and Facilities, Heriot-Watt University

Flexibility and finetuning.

With student numbers still to be finalised at the time of design – ranging between 2,500 and 5,000 on campus at any one time – flexibility was key. Additionally, higher education spaces typically demand higher and deeper aspect ratios so creative thinking was also required to deliver a design within the constraints of a shell and core frame originally intended for segregated office use. We designed a fire strategy and life safety systems to accommodate the maximum number of occupants, and provided MEP solutions such as plug and play underfloor busbar and adjustable partitions with modular HVAC servicing to allow the university to reconfigure spaces to suit demands . This became a continual balancing act in terms of how best to distribute the MEP provision due to constraint imposed by the basebuild infrastructure.

The aspiration to achieve LEED Gold certification was only instructed by the client post completion of RIBA Stage 4a. Embracing this late challenge, we refined the MEP design, achieving reductions in water use and lighting power densities, as well as working closely with the contractor during their mobilisation period to maximise use of locally sourced materials.

Integrated from the outset.

An integrated part of the architects’ team from the preparation and briefing stage through to project handover and beyond – with Stage 7 involvement as part of the defects liability period – we regularly worked directly from BDP’s design studio during key stages, and actively advised the client throughout the tender award process and selection of contractor Khansaheb.

We provided consistent guidance throughout design and construction; the only team to maintain the same personnel structure for the duration of the project. This paid dividends with regard to knowledge retention and risk management; we were able to advise Heriot-Watt staff new to the project the history behind each design-related decision , and keep the contractor on course throughout the construction period.

Intelligent optimisation.

We drove the long process of end-user technical requirements and ensured each faculty’s demands were captured in the final design. Working closely with BDP to ensure over 94% of all equipment and appliances were Energy Star compliant, we optimised energy performance. Specifying LED fittings where possible and providing low-energy luminaires in keeping with the interior design aesthetic, we achieved a 34% reduction in lighting power consumption compared to ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1–2010’s baseline rates. 98% of the lighting load was connected to occupancy sensors and 63% was connected to daylight sensors where daylight harvesting was possible . Employing a combination of low flow fittings and leak detection measures, we achieved a 46% reduction in water use compared to LEED’s baseline water consumption.

All the better for teaching in.

So popular that the backlog of applications stretches into 2023, the new campus not only doubles the university’s student capacity but minimises the ‘us and them’ feeling that siloed office set-ups can impose. Open and accessible to the student population, staff faculty areas encourage interaction, while a newly dedicated business and enterprise area gives students industry experience of real-world projects via placements with companies with HQs in the Dubai Knowledge Park area. These include Google, Bloomberg, Amazon and Samsung.

VR suites allow students to link in to live lectures taught from the Edinburgh and Malaysia campuses, increasing the variety available; a dance, fitness and yoga studio and dedicated wellbeing rooms promote mental and physical health; and students benefit from a recreation zone, shop, and extended bus routes to campus. This was achieved in conjunction with the local authority in order to meet LEED Gold accessibility requirements.

Collaborative lecture theatres feature shallow rake tiered and booth-style seating encouraging peer discussion, plus pod rooms for group sharing via interconnected PCs, while our exposed services solution amplifies the perceived heights of teaching rooms, helping with viewing angles.
Key Figures
20,000 m2 of fit-out area across seven floors
46% reduction in water use compared to LEED’s baseline water consumption
1,000,000 man hours without Lost Time from Injury by the contractor during construction

Featured Content Section

A particular challenge was in coordinating the drainage routes for a newly proposed centralised chemical neutralisation system to serve the wet laboratories
John Wood, Project Lead, Hoare Lea

Project Lead:
John Wood

Related specialisms