Coffey Architects complete factory-style digital learning center in Norwich

The three-story Digi-Tech factory creates an official entrance to the Norfolk campus, which has become one of the nation’s largest colleges for higher education.

Coffey Architects worked with local architect James Lee Burgess to design the 2,725 m2 building, which contains teaching, learning, and social spaces for nearly 500 students, including robotics labs, digital studios, and e-labs, in addition to general classrooms and support spaces.

It also features covered outdoor spaces that promote social interaction and protect staff and students from inclement weather on rainy days.

Inspired by industrial design, the envelope is formed from ready-to-use components, comprising an exposed steel frame grid and a thermal envelope of lightweight composite panels and glass. Its external screen is finished in white powder coated aluminum mesh, unifying the building from its exterior.

Referencing the disciplines studied in building, the laser-cut perforation pattern on these panels draws inspiration from binary code and historic computer tape.

The program sits next to BDP’s black wooden Creative Arts Building, which was completed in 2013.

The entrance and reception are centrally located inside, facing south-east, and accessed through the covered outdoor plaza. Lit from above, the core of the main staircase is visible from this hall. An atmosphere of light is achieved through skylights at the end of each hallway and double-height spaces on each floor.

Floor-to-ceiling windows along the internal hallways provide views of the lab spaces. Inspired by the overarching concept of a digital factory, the interior design has an exposed structure and services.

The scheme was partly funded by the government’s Town Deal, making Norwich the first town in the country to complete a project under the scheme.

Norwich City College appointed Coffey Architects to design the hub in 2019.

Architect’s view

By holding the key principles of our practice of light and people at the center of the process, we have created an adaptable building that can provide a quality digital learning experience for students who will use it for years to come. The experience of working with City College Norwich has been very positive – it’s been a very rewarding collaboration.
Phil Coffey, Principal, Coffey Architects

The customer’s point of view

The completed building exceeded the results and expectations we set out in the client brief. Coffey Architects produced a historic building for the College, Town and Eastern Region, which provides industry-equivalent digital facilities in a modern, light and airy building. Most importantly, our students and staff are thrilled with the new Digi-Tech factory and we’ve received great feedback:

  • It has everything, all the technology, all the computers you need. The building itself is a welcoming building. It is light and airy. I like all the elements on display there, especially with the civil engineering, because that’s what we learn. Leanne, civil engineering apprentice
  • This building looks like a professional environment. You feel like you are in a real company, with rooms where you can cooperate better with other people. Mantas, t-level digital production, design and development

It was a pleasure to work with the Coffey team and I congratulate and thank them for delivering a unique building that the college can be truly proud of.
Jon Bonham, Director of Estates and Facilities, City College Norwich

Project data

Start on site July 2020
Completion date August 2021
Gross interior floor area 2,725m2
Form of contract or supply route Design and build
Building cost £7.16 million
Construction cost per m2 £2,626
Architect Coffey Architects
Customer Norwich City College
structural engineer Clancy Consulting
M&E consultant Clear advice and design
Quantity Surveyor real advice
Interior design Urban XR
landscape consultant LanPro
Acoustic consultant Adrian James Acoustics
Project Manager real advice
lead designer CDM contractual services
Certified building inspector Build an overview
Main contractor RG Carter
CAD software used AutoCAD, Rhino

Environmental performance data

On-site energy production Not provided
Annual city water consumption Not provided
Waterproof at 50 Pa 5 meters3/hm2
Heating and hot water load 5,316.78kWh/m2/year
design life 60 years
Embodied Carbon/Lifetime Unavailable

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