The University of Ulster Belfast Campus

The University of Ulster Belfast Campus



Structural Engineer


Steelwork Contractor


Main Contractor




The new 6,000m2 building provides state-ofthe- art facilities for the Department of Art & Design including a 220-seat lecture theatre, multifunction lecture and display areas, learning resource centre, CAD suite, teaching rooms, studios and workshops.

The structure consists of a 6-storey steel frame with exposed pre-cast concrete hollow core floor planks. Lateral stability is provided by cross bracing within lift and stair cores. The choice of structure maximised off site fabrication while minimising on-site disruption for the congested city centre site.

On entering the building, students pass under the sculpted lecture theatre and into the large central atrium space at the heart of the building. The protrusion of the lecture theatre into the atrium space is a particularly striking feature. The rear curved wall of the theatre hides a truss which spans across the building entrance and is supported on adjacent faces of the atrium. The long span support structure for the atrium was carefully designed to avoid any cyclical deflections developing during use.

The atrium space consists of a planar glazed vertical wall which curves over the top of the building forming a horizontal glazed roof which allows natural light to flood into the building. The vertical glazed wall is supported by steel oval sections spanning from one side of the atrium to the other. An exposed steel link bridge is provided at each floor level adjacent to the glazed wall. Horizontal brise soleil are fixed to the vertical glass wall to prevent glare and excessive solar gain while maximising the passage of natural daylight.

The atrium roof structure consists of a series of elegantly detailed bow string trusses which span just over 14m. The top chord of each of the trusses is formed from an oval section which provides an ideal balance between aesthetics and structural efficiency. The ends of the ovalised top chords are terminated in an expressed pinned connection.

Natural ventilation is employed, using automatically controlled louvers on the façade, providing cross flow ventilation via the atrium. This natural ventilation is used in conjunction with the high thermal mass structure using exposed pre-cast concrete slabs into which are integrated the lighting, fire alarm and PA systems.

The floor beams had to blend seamlessly into the circular hollow section columns. This required the columns to be fabricated with small stubs, mirroring the connecting beam, and allowing a perfect flush fitting. All exposed steelwork was treated off site with intumescent paint.

A 27m long footbridge glazed on two faces links the new building to another part of the faculty on the other side of a busy road. The footbridge’s structure consists of a pair of Vierendeel trusses which are separated from the curved glass façade to create a sense of space and lightness.

With its low energy footprint, the campus is considered to be one of Northern Ireland’s finest new buildings.

Judges’ Comment


This neatly engineered and constructed project forms an extension and recladding of a 1960’s concrete building. The steelwork structure with hollowcore floors compared favourably with many alternatives, assessed against 12 parameters, crucially including safety.

A shining example of steelwork’s economic case, and a credit to all concerned.