A New Forum for the Royal Academy of Engineering

The New Forum for the Royal Academy of Engineering has been completed on time and within budget.  As Britain’s national academy for engineering, the Academy brings together the country’s most eminent engineers from all disciplines to promote excellence in the science, art and practice of engineering.  The Forum is used to celebrate engineering in all its myriad forms and host events highlighting the integrated and innovative solutions required to address engineering challenges as well as providing extensive opportunities for networking, inspiration and disseminating expert knowledge.  Activities within the Forum help the Academy’s overarching objective of moving engineering to the heart of society.

The Forum is at No’s 3 & 4 Carlton House Terrace, London.  Carlton House Terrace is listed Grade I and forms part of Nash’s ‘Grand Project’ prepared in 1827 to provide a new route linking Regent’s Park and Waterloo Place.  It is known that Decimus Burton designed the interior of No.3 Carlton House Terrace.  The interiors had however been substantially altered by its owners over its history, suffering bomb damage during the Second World War and severe fire damage in 1989.

The Academy’s refurbishment by Burrell Foley Fischer LLP, has removed unsympathetic 20th Century alterations and reinstated the scale and integrity of the principal rooms at the ground and first floors.  The approach to detailing has not been of restoration but of developing a design palette that is appropriate to the scale of the interior spaces, the historic significance of the terrace and its occupation by the Royal Academy of Engineering.  The objective was to develop an appropriate language to be interpreted as being ‘calm, serene and timeless’.

The Forum provides four multi-use rooms at ground level, which are suitable for exhibitions, receptions, meetings and dining, and can be used individually or as a suite.  A 170-seat lecture theatre is located at first floor, together with an overflow lecture theatre/meeting room and associated break out space.  The large lecture theatre can be subdivided into two smaller rooms with a drop down acoustic ‘skywall’ that can retract into the ceiling void. 

To provide a single accessible entrance through No. 3 Carlton House Terrace for all visitors to the Forum, a new sinuous bridge and ramp has been designed, rising gradually across the forecourt to make up the 1m level difference between the pavements and reception.  Historic research revealed that Decimus Burton proposed a garden in front of No.3 with a winding picturesque path and BFF have used this as an inspirational starting point for the bridge design. The bridge is constructed in stainless steel plate, fabricated in triangular hollow section, polished to achieve a high quality finish.  Laminated glass balustrades fixed into stainless steel brackets on the side of the bridge provide guarding where the bridge spans the front courtyard.  The bridge was constructed in Scotland, by engineering apprentices at Babcock International PLC a company more used to the construction of nuclear submarines and the planting scheme is by Andy Sturgeon, a 5 time Gold Medal winner at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.  The establishment of a garden on the forecourt makes a public statement about the Academy’s commitment to sustainability, while the sinuous bridge marks 3 Carlton House Terrace as the home of UK engineering creativity.

The Academy set high sustainability standards for the refurbishment.  These are not always easy to achieve when working with a Listed building, although opting for refurbishment, rather than new build, has a much lower carbon impact.  Energy efficient features include: rooms designed to allow for natural ventilation when external conditions are appropriate, with heat recovery provided on the mechanical ventilation system, sash window beads brush sealed to reduce heat loss where possible, the use of a mix of LED and CFL low energy lighting, and a BMS which allows flexible room control to match daily building usage and minimise energy demand.  In order to minimise cooling loads the Academy accepted a wider range of internal temperatures than standard, which reduces reliance on terminal cooling units.  Each of the principle rooms is controlled based on occupancy, temperature and CO2 levels, which balances the drive for reduced energy consumption with the importance of indoor air quality and occupant wellbeing.  In addition provision has been made to allow for future improvements, including planning permission for a roof mounted solar thermal system to be implemented when existing boilers are replaced.