Monday, 25 July 2016

Spring Lane Building: working group site visit and building progress

On 14 June, members of the Spring Lane Building Steering Group and the Learning Spaces Working Group were given the opportunity to go on a tour to see the progress of the new Spring Lane Teaching Building. Donning the obligatory PPE, we were led around the building site by a Graham Construction representative.

Amid the noise and liveliness of the busy site, It was great to finally get a feeling for what the spaces will be like.

Lecture theatre

The 350 seat lecture theatre is really starting to take shape, with its curved design clearly visible.

Lecture theatre taking shape.jpg

Seminar rooms

The generously-sized seminar rooms were even further along, with carpets laid and the first coats of paint in the vibrantly coloured alcoves on the walls. The ceiling baffles really give the rooms a modern and airy feel.

Coloured alcove in a seminar room.jpg

Slack for iOS Upload.jpg


The glazed atrium was particularly impressive - even without the central staircase! It will be a fantastic, bright space once the scaffolding comes down. In the second photo you can see all three floors.

Looking towards Alcuin and the  glazed atrium .jpg

Shame we are putting in a central stair core. Nice void. .jpg

Informal study space

The informal study space above the lecture theatre makes excellent use of the views across the canopy of trees and will definitely become a popular place to relax or study.

There’s still a lot to be done before the start of term in September, but it’s exciting to see how the building has already come together so quickly. We’ll definitely be keeping an eye on its progress and hopefully the Group will be able to go on another visit later in the summer - watch this space!


Thursday, 14 July 2016

How we allocate teaching space and who will be in the Spring Lane Building next year

We all want the best space to operate out of (he says writing this blog post from a basement). So it’s only natural that we have the question posed quite regularly about how and who has the different learning spaces allocated on campus.

Timetabling Principles

Our University Teaching Committee receives and approves the annual Space Management/Timetabling report and periodically reviews the Timetabling Principles that we operate by at York. The two principles that directly apply to the space allocation are:

7.  Where competing demand for spaces with specific facilities (including large boards, chalk surfaces, blackout curtains, etc) exists, sessions requiring these facilities will take priority during the timetable construction. These requirements should be identified during the annual timetable construction round. If demand for a particular space outstrips supply and cannot be accommodated through the provision of additional equipment, sessions shall be prioritised with the needs of the session size foremost. As far as possible, sessions will be located in the most appropriate and geographically close location to the department home zone.

8. Space utilisation must be maximised within the constraints of these principles, with all non-specialist space to be available for general use outside teaching activities. Space utilisation will be audited at least once a year and reported to the University Teaching Committee (UTC). 

If we apply this to the Spring Lane Building we have the following specific facilities that come into play:

  • A 350-seat lecture theatre, with blackout, and board replacement technology (a large, digital overhead projector)
  • 23 seminar rooms, of which eight have full blackout and larger screen/projection facilities. All in boardroom seminar format for up to 20
  • Three experimental spaces (which for the purposes of this blog post I will exclude)

So when it comes to the lecture theatre, by and large we are seeking to house the cohort sizes that require this size provided by the lecture theatre first, then utilising the remaining capacity. Given the board replacement technology the theatre has the potential to work for most teaching delivered at this size. A store room to the undercroft of the lecture theatre seating allows for storing science experiments too!

The 23 seminar rooms are most likely to be the highly contended spaces. They complement our existing learning space capacity with the same facilities and, broadly speaking, we have aimed to allocate the activities that require these evenly. Taking the timetabling principle into account though, the departments closest to the building (ie in the ‘home zone’) may have a higher density of activity.

Actual usage of the Spring Lane Building

For the first year of operation, eight of the top floor seminar rooms are set aside for use by the International Pathway College’s inaugural year. Any further need will be accommodated in capacity throughout the learning and teaching estate as needed.

The headline figures for the number of hours booked in the building so far for next year are below (this includes all year round, evenings, vacation time known so far).

Booked hours
Centre for Applied Human Rights
Centre for English Language Teaching
Centre for Global Programmes
Centre for Lifelong Learning (predominantly outside of teaching hours)
English and Related Literature
Health Sciences
History of Art
Languages and Linguistics
Politics, Economics and Philosophy
Social Policy and Social Work
Support - Admissions (predominantly outside of teaching hours)
Support - General room bookings
Support - Exams
Support - Central booking including IPC allocations
Centre for Women’s Studies

As you can see, a fairly good amount of hours for departments that suit the type of learning space provided.


Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Spring Lane Building - sample room layouts and working group update

The Learning Spaces Working Group met following a recent site visit and have ratified a lot of the small detail recommendations from the day.

The big topic of discussion was the final recommendation to put to the Steering Group with the quantity and preferred style of layout of rooms as discussed in the last blog post.

Here are some pictures:

Agile Lab
One of the suggested layouts for a lounge/film screening room

High quality, flexible seminar room layout (note the chairs / furniture are for illustration - we actually have our nice Torsion Air chairs, bespoke tables and benches

The same room in a flexible, collaborative layout without moving any heavy furniture
We hope to receive the go-ahead from the Steering Group shortly!


Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Derwent D/056 and Vanbrugh V/044 refurbishment updates - we're almost live!

The works have been progressing at a pace and there’s lots to report.


Derwent’s new collaborative lecture/learning space is almost ready for use. In fact, we did use it at the University Open Days at the end of June!

The collaborative furniture is in place with a plug socket per occupant and plenty of space to both face forward and shuffle round to work in a group. We tried it out and loved it - we can’t wait to see what you think of it!

We hope the new seating will work really well for collaborative working as well as lectures

We’ve also installed new energy efficient air-handling system to tackle the room’s problems with ventilation/heating (your feedback told us it was either too hot and stuffy or too cold).

The new setup features a new 3 metre projection screen alongside the old teaching boards, which have been cleaned up and recycled. A new, larger lectern is in place at the front with all the standard spec for a lecture room and a visualiser (digital overhead projector) to replace the old OHP that has served the room well for some time! The room is also kitted out for the University’s Lecture Capture (Replay) system.

The new teaching equipment in position

We have some final touches and snags before the room is ready to be used by summer activity on campus, including some final accessibility issues to address and improvements we’d like to make to the external area outside, facing the pond and looking out on to the campus lake.

D/056 from the outside - featuring new windows and doors


Our full refurbishment of the seminar room at the heart of Vanbrugh College is also nearing completion. We recently spent some time selecting a new specification of seminar chair for campus (you can see these in the last Spring Lane working group update) and these should arrive for September. Meanwhile, things are starting to come together for the learning space which will feature:

  • Fully replaced glazing and with full blackout (especially for Art Historians!)
  • 3 metre central projection and renewed AV equipment for the room
  • Full height ‘think’ wall down the side of the room - essentially a giant whiteboard!
  • Bespoke tables and overhead lighting to match the table layout, fully dimmable
  • Glazed lobby doors (with a curtain) to easily see if a class is taking place
  • Improved ventilation system

We look forward to hearing what you think about the space once it’s finished!