Social Sciences Building

Designed in Sheffield: Plans for new world-class Social Science facility approved. 
The University of Sheffield’s plans for a new, world-class Social Sciences facility to enhance the student experience and encourage interdisciplinary research have been approved by Sheffield City Council.

Designed by award-winning Sheffield based architects HLM, the proposed state-of-the-art home for the University’s Faculty of Social Sciences will improve learning for students through its new collaborative teaching and social spaces and offer a wide range of disciplines under the same roof for the first time.

It will also include a research hub, bringing together cross-cutting research centres in an innovative working environment to encourage truly interdisciplinary research that will lead the way in addressing key societal and global challenges.

Director of HLM Nick Beecroft said: “The realisation of these designs will be a tremendous step forward for the University and the City. This is our home city, and we, HLM, are proud to be working with the University of Sheffield. We are delighted to see this important step forward for their estate, their students and the city more widely. This is an exciting project to be part of.”

The Faculty of Social Sciences is the University’s largest faculty, with more than 9,000 students - making up 34 percent of the University’s total student population.

The Faculty comprises 13 departments, several cross-cutting research institutes, and the White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership. The Faculty is unique among its peers in the Russell Group in having both classical social sciences disciplines such as Politics and Economics, but also practitioner-based disciplines such as Architecture and the Information School.

Professor Gill Valentine, Vice-President and Head of Faculty for Social Sciences, said: “Our Faculty is leading the way in impactful learning, teaching and research. The new facility has the potential to secure future development in these areas by bringing our students and academics together in an innovative, interdisciplinary environment.”

​Keith Lilley, Director of Estates and Facilities Management at the University of Sheffield, said: "This is a really significant development for us and we're really pleased with the way we've been able to work with HLM to achieve a design which looks fantastic, provides superb teaching and learning space for our students and underpins our efforts to continue to develop a more sustainable campus. We're delighted that planning permission has now been granted and look forward to seeing this exciting building take shape over the next two years."

The proposed new facility will also provide departmental bases for the Departments of Economics, Politics, Sociological Studies, the Sheffield Methods Institute and the Faculty of Social Sciences office.

The adjacent Elmfield Building, which currently houses the Department of Politics, will provide the departmental homes for the Information School, Journalism Studies and the School of Education. This will bring departments in closer proximity to the Sheffield University Management School on Conduit Road.

Green space, which will be open to the public as well as students and staff, will be part of the development, providing an improved local environment.

The building has been designed with sustainability at its core and it is expected that it will achieve a BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) outstanding rating. Ground source heat pumps will be installed to maximise the opportunity created by thermal warmth, and provide cooling in the summer.

Construction work on the Social Sciences building will start on site in early 2018, with an expected completion date of spring 2020.

What will the new building look like?

Whitham Rd 1

Social Sciences Whitham Road

Whitham Rd 2

Social Sciences Whitham Road 2

Whitham Rd Entrance

Social Sciences Whitham Road

Social Sciences Interior - Atrium

Social Sciences Atrium

3D Visual

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  1. Q. Where will the building be?

    A. The building will be at the junction of Northumberland and Whitham Roads, on the site of an existing football pitch.

  2. Q. How big will the building be?

    A. The new building will be four storeys high at the front and three storeys high at the back, with a total area of 16,500 square meters.

  3. Q. Which departments will be in the new building?

    A. Economics, Sociological Studies, Politics, Sheffield Methods Institute, the interdisciplinary research centres and the Faculty of Social Sciences Office

  4. Q. Will there be any teaching space in the new building?

    A. The new building will house a variety of teaching spaces in terms of their style and capacity, with large collaborative lecture theatres of different sizes, and a variety of smaller seminar rooms. Also included will be two computer rooms, and the suite of Journalism specialist teaching spaces.

  5. Q. What provision has been made in the building regarding study spaces?

    A. The building will provide around 500 study spaces of varying styles with two silent study spaces. Students will also be encouraged and be able to use teaching spaces as study space when the spaces are not being used for teaching.

  6. Q. What will happen to the other sports pitch on this site and will there be a replacement for the pitch that is being lost?

    A. The new Social Sciences building is linked to improvements at the University’s Norton sports centre. Two new high quality pitches – a 3g hockey pitch and a 3g rugby/football pitch – are being developed there along with changing and shower facilities. The existing hockey pitch at Whitham Road will become a 3g football pitch and the cricket nets will be improved and brought back into use. Overall, sports provision will be both increased and significantly improved.

  7. Q. Will the building be environmentally friendly?

    A. The building has been designed with sustainability at its heart and is expected to get a BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) outstanding rating. Working with a sustainability consultant as part of the design team has allowed us to model in detail the anticipated performance of the building. Current models show a significant reduction on current Building Regulations requirements for carbon emissions and energy demand. This has been achieved through passive features, such as the winter garden, high performance thermal envelope and use of the atrium space for heating and cooling, and also through the specification and integration of efficient mechanical and electrical systems.
    In addition to the Social Sciences building, the University are exploring options for a wider energy network to serve this area. Options being considered will provide low carbon technologies from which the University will be able to draw its heat and power.

  8. Q. How will the new development contribute positively to biodiversity in the area?

    A. The Social Science Scheme’s landscape design aims to positively contribute to the biodiversity in the area.
    Introduction of a range of new habitats and improving the quality of existing soft landscape are two of the many ways in which the landscape proposals aim to build on and improve local biodiversity and distinctness of the area. Removal of dominant , ‘out of character’ and poor biodiversity tree species, such as the large Leylandii hedge on Whitham Road, is a fundamental part of the design. This will make room for an enhanced public realm and improved planting and tree planting opportunities.

  9. Q. What contribution will the development make to greening the environment?

    A. The layout of the scheme has been designed to maximise pedestrian use and activity. ‘Pocket parks’ both to the rear and front of the development connect the development to its surroundings and create active facades. The main public realm off Whitham Road forms an urban plaza for socialising, seating and enhanced ornamental planting whilst forming an attractive approach into the development. These ‘pocket parks’ will become an inviting place to stay and relax whilst providing a sense of character. The selection of materials will be in line with the University Masterplan creating a cohesive scheme.

  10. Q. Will there be cycle parking at the new building?

    A. To promote sustainable modes of transport, the site will have a cycle hub and cycle parking for approximately 200 cycles. The cycle hub will contain internal, secure storage and changing facilities for staff and students. The University’s hire scheme will be extended to provide cycles at this site.

  11. Q. Surely the new building will result in many more pedestrians and traffic coming into the area?

    A. The site’s location will see a significant shift in student numbers to this area of the campus. This will actually reduce foot traffic down Whitham Road/Western Bank and create safer walking/cycling routes in to the city centre.

  12. Q. Will there be many new car parking spaces as part of the development – and will this too result in increased traffic around the area?

    A. In line with the University’s sustainable transport policy, the emphasis will be on encouraging people to walk or cycle, or take public transport when visiting the new Social Sciences Building. A very small number of visitor parking spaces have been included in the design, along with disabled parking bays and charging points for electric cars. All other car drivers will be encouraged to use the multi-storey car park at Durham Road.

  13. Q. Will the building be open to the public?

    A. Much of the building will be open to the public, including the ground floor café. There will also be a pocket park at the front of the building which will create welcome green space for all. The new park will help improve air quality on a busy road and provide a new social space to serve both the local and University community as well as providing a pleasant outlook and amenity space for users of the adjacent Weston Park Hospital.

  14. Q. How will this new modern building fit within the character of the local area?

    A, The building continues Sheffield’s development pattern of large buildings punctuating the tree and skyline. Northumberland Road has a strong and attractive character, predominated by the continuous stone walls to the back of pavement and the backdrop of trees and vegetation. The new development retains the stone wall to Northumberland Road as much as possible, creating openings for access at key points. The stone wall, railings and plaque to Whitham Road will also be retained, again with small openings made to create safe entrances to the site for pedestrians. The ground floor level of the building is higher than Northumberland Road, reflecting the historic height of the Godfrey Dam, which is also seen as a significant characteristic of the area.

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