Social Sciences building Sheffield

Project overview

Interior of Social Sciences buildingBuilding of a world-class Social Sciences facility to enhance the student experience and encourage interdisciplinary research started in May 2019.

Designed by HLM architects, this home for the 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 to address key global challenges.

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. Ground source heat pumps will be installed to maximise the opportunity created by thermal warmth, and provide cooling in the summer. 

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More information

Project details

Project Manager: Richard Parr, Department of Estates and Facilities Management

Contact: [email] [tel] 0114 222 9127

Construction Manager: Nick Howdle, Bam Construction

Contact: [email] [tel] 07711 390 854

Client: Faculty of Social Sciences

Location: Junction of Whitham Road (A57) and Northumberland Road

Timescale: May 2019 - TBC

Latest news

14 October 2020: BAM has demolished 89% of the building and is on track to complete it by the end of October. They are currently working on the remaining ground floor structure and pile caps. This week they will be drilling test piles.

BAM continue to monitor dust and noise levels to ensure they’re working within approved limits, and mitigate the effect of their deconstruction activities as much as possible by using acoustic chambers. They have increased the number of water cannons on site to improve ‘dampening down’. Some plant equipment has been moved further away from residential properties so there are fewer journeys to this part of the site.

2 October 2020: BAM are continuing to dismantle the building with 72% of the demolition completed on the whole site. The remaining work left to deconstruct is below ground. They are on track to finish this element completely by the end of October.

They have also progressed and concluded the first part of the unexploded ordnance survey works in preparation for piling to begin. This was also carried out previously during the initial surveys and piling works but BAM are checking again as standard practice.

A brand-new piling rig is due on site 9 October for work to begin the week commencing 12 October on installation of the test piles. The acoustic levels have been checked and these will be well within the permitted site limits.

16 September 2020: Demolition work is progressing to schedule and BAM are on course to finish this work by the end of October 2020. They have completed 64% of the deconstruction work so far.

BAM are reusing and recycling as much as waste material as possible. So far all of the concrete on site has been retained for reuse and steel from the reinforcement structures is being sent to be melted down and reused.

25 August 2020: We have recently been informed by BAM, the building contractor for the new Social Sciences building, that the safest course of action to address the piled foundation issue is to deconstruct and rebuild the entire building. This is disappointing news for all concerned and we are working with BAM to reduce disruption to local residents.

We understand from BAM that the deconstruction will be completed towards the end of October 2020 – and will be followed by a period of new piled foundation installation which BAM expect to be complete in February 2021.

Further ground investigations have reconfirmed that the ground is safe and suitable for the new building, once the correct piled foundations have been installed.

The University will not face any financial repercussions because of the delay, which is the responsibility of the contractor.

15 July 2020: Work will begin to partially dismantle the building from Monday 20 July 2020. One of the tower cranes will be taken down to enable the works to take place.

Throughout the deconstruction and piling process, BAM will be dampening down to cut down on dust. They are required to work within the noise limits as set out in the planning conditions.

20 May 2020: There is a delay to construction. Statement from BAM:

Remedial works have commenced on the scheme to deliver the Faculty of Social Sciences building for the University of Sheffield. The scheme is currently under construction.

BAM identified that there was settlement occurring in excess of that which would normally be expected in a structure of this nature, prompting us to conduct detailed investigations. These confirm a problem involving the piling of the structure, which are unusually complicated.

We therefore conducted a review together with our client and the expert sub-contractors involved: Mott Macdonald – structural engineers - and Cementation Skanska – piling contractor. This concluded the best course of action would be to partly dismantle some of the current structural frame – to the north elevation then rebuild it. Those works are now underway.

This action followed rapidly after identifying the problem and these remedial works are expected to take approximately eight or nine weeks. BAM is apologising to local residents around the scheme for any additional inconvenience this may cause. Materials in the current frame will be re-used in the scheme or recycled.

BAM is working closely with the University to determine the consequent delay to the completion of the new building which it is now anticipated would be in 2022.

At all times the building has been safe to all those around it.

BAM has an excellent track record in Sheffield over many years and many building, and is committed to operating responsibly and openly with its clients.

March 2020: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 incident, the University has been working closely with our contractors to ensure they comply with government advice regarding social distancing. 

The Faculty of Social Sciences building site is open but work is reduced. BAM are following Public Health England guidelines which state workers must be at least 2 metres apart and wash hands often. 

The project team are working remotely and no site visits are taking place. 

The University continues to monitor the situation and will respond where government advice is updated. 

December 2019: The ground floor slab is now fully cast which gives us a clear footprint of the building. Concrete cores continue to be installed and the drum is now fully concreted.

November 2019: You can see real progress on site now as the drum steelwork is now complete. The concrete frame is progressing with first sections of first floor now cast.
We've had some exceptionally bad weather over the last few months, with the wettest July and September for 10 years. That's led to some loss of working time, but the site team are working hard to make sure it doesn't slow the programme down.

October 2019: We have now completed drilling the fourteen 225 metre deep boreholes for the ground source heat pump and will now start to add the pipe equipment. The project's foundations are complete and we continue to install the ground floor slab.

w/c 5/7/2019: Works are progressing well with piling now complete and the old villa has been demolished. As the site was a reservoir before it became sports pitch, BAM are busy pumping water from underground and will continue this whilst they are constructing works in the ground. The team have started to crop the piles to the correct level and construct the pile caps.
The drilling rig for the deep bore hole heat exchanges is now on site and starting soon. The rig will drill 14 x 200m deep bore holes into the land for the Geothermal ground source heat pumps. This technology will make the building the University's most sustainable in terms of heating and cooling.

w/c 10/6/2019: Date not fixed yet but we anticipate the boring machine work to commence 10 June for up to 20 weeks. The noise level will be comparable to the enabling works currently taking place.

w/c 3/6/2019: We will take delivery of 2 piling rigs, which are large drilling machines used to construct the concrete pile foundations for the building. These rigs will start drilling at the west side of the building and work their way towards Whitham Road.

w/c 20/5/2019: Installing the piling platform that forms the footprint of the building.

w/c 13/5/2019: Excavation and drilling chambers work to commence to prepare the ground.

w/c 15/5/2019: Sheffield Tree Care, working on behalf of the University, will be removing a number of trees behind the villa on Northumberland Road. New trees will be replanted on at least a two to one basis once the building work is complete.

w/c 21/5/2019: We are hosting a residents' drop in on Tuesday 21 May, 6-7.30pm, James Smith House (11 - 15 Marlborough Road) to show architect's visuals and the proposed planting scheme along the boundary area between the building and Marlborough Road.



Note: The facade design shown on this video has been updated and will look different on the final building.

View from Weston Park Hospital:

exterior shot of Social Sciences building

View of corner of Northumberland and Whitham Roads:

exterior shot of Social Sciences building

Aerial views: 

Aerial shot of Social Sciences building

Aerial shot of Social Sciences building

Atrium area:

interior shot of Social Sciences building

Credit: HLM Architects

Where will the building be?

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

How big will the building be?

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.

Which departments will be in the new building?

Economics, Sociological Studies, Politics, the Sheffield Methods Institute, White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership, the interdisciplinary research centres and the Faculty of Social Sciences office.

Will there be any teaching space in the new building?

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.

Is there any provision for study spaces in the new building?

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.

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

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 now open 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.

Click here for information on the Norton Sports Centre development.

Will the new building be environmentally friendly?

The building has been designed with sustainability at its heart and is aspiring 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 a 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.

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

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 spaces and improved planting and tree planting opportunities.

What contribution will the development make to greening the environment?

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 space 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's Campus Masterplan, creating a cohesive scheme.

Will there be cycle parking at the new building?

To promote sustainable modes of transport, the site will have a cycle hub and cycle parking for approximately 200 cycles. As part of the development, there will be internal, secure storage and changing facilities for staff and students.

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

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.

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

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.

What is happening to the bus stop on Whitham Road

The bus stop is being permanently moved slightly further up Whitham Road towards Broomhill. This is to ensure better access to the site.

Will the building be open to the public?

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.

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

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.

One of the walls at the Whitham Road entrance to the site has been removed - I thought these walls and railings were staying as part of the new building?

Yes, they will be retained within the new development. We have had to remove one of the walls temporarily to allow access for large machinery, but this will be re-instated once the work is done.

How is the current COVID-19 pandemic affecting work on site?

The outbreak has meant that BAM have been restricted to what work they can do on site. There workers have been following social distancing guidelines and wa

This worldwide pandemic has caused issues with the supply chain so there are problems with some materials arriving on site late.

Is there a problem with the land the building is being constructed on?

The site includes the former Godfrey Dam embankment and backfill within the former reservoir. These create challenging ground conditions, which is why four separate phases of ground investigation have been carried out to inspect the nature of the fill materials and to confirm that the underlying rock is suitable for piled foundations [piled foundations are long structures, in this case concrete, bored into the ground to reach to buried rock for foundation support].

The investigations have confirmed that there is no problem with the land in terms of installing a suitable foundation, as there is a suitable layer of rock underlying the site.

Why are you deconstructing part of the building?

BAM identified that there was settlement occurring in excess of that which would normally be expected in a structure of this nature, prompting us to conduct detailed investigations. These confirm a problem involving the piling of the structure, which are unusually complicated.

BAM have concluded that the safest solution to the piling issue is to deconstruct the entire building before reconstructing the structure on new piled foundations.

Will the building look different than initially planned after this work?

No, there will be no change to the building design.

How will this delay affect students, staff and departments?

This delay will not affect students’ studies. We will be able to accommodate our students in the current facilities on campus until the new building is open.

Will you be keeping the temporary teaching facility on the Northumberland Road car park?

Due to these unexpected delays, we will be asking Sheffield City Council to extend planning permission for our temporary modular facility on our Northumberland Road car park for a further three years.

This was not our original intention for this temporary facility but it is essential that we can continue to provide high-quality teaching whilst the new building is still under construction.

Whose fault it this? This is a Contractor design and construction error for which the University is not responsible. 
Why didn’t you detect it sooner? BAM have advised that they acted as soon as they identified that more settlement than planned was occurring.
How much settlement was/is there? The design allowed for up to 25mm settlement at a pile location. This has been exceeded in multiple locations. Hence the need for a significant intervention.
What has caused it? There has been an error at the design stage. As a consequence, some piles have been installed shorter than is required.
Will re-piling be the same as the original piling – is it where you put the piles or how deep they went? The new piling will be coordinated to miss the redundant foundations and adjusted to remove the original design stage error.
Why are you using the same team that caused the problem? Are you blaming them? The design and construction remains the responsibility of the Contractor. The University have appointed an independent team to review the Contractors redesign and re-installation. 
What will this cost? Who is paying for the additional costs? There are obviously financial implications and responsibility is being assessed. This is a Contractor error and the University is not responsible for additional costs.
How much of it are you demolishing? The whole building is being demolished.
Are you commencing legal action against MM or Skanska? This is a matter for the Contractor and its designers and Subcontractors to discuss and agree. The University will rely on its existing contract.
How long is the delay to the scheme finishing? Approximately 18 months (original completion was expected June 2021).
Will this mean a lot of dust and noise for neighbours?

There will inevitably be some dust and noise as a result of the dismantling activities but BAM advise that they will use every endeavour to keep this to a minimum for those around the site.

When breaking the foundations, BAM will use acoustic enclosures to help reduce noise. They are dampening down the site to cut down on dust and monitoring dust and noise to ensure they operate within approved limits set out in the planning conditions.

BAM are using the quietest breakers available which are not being used before 8:30am or after 5pm.

Will you be working late nights and weekends? BAM may have to work extended hours if an urgent or safety issue were to arise or in the event of a concrete pour running over. They are not planning to work extended hours and do not intend to undertake dismantling works on Saturdays
Contact us

Project enquiries: Project Manager Richard Parr, / 0114 222 9127

General enquiries: The EFM Help Desk will put you in touch with the right person, / 0114 222 9000

If you're a member of staff or a student in the Faculty of Social Sciences, Laura Armitage, Faculty Estates Development Manager, is a useful point of contact: