Press Release

Construction completed on UK’s largest engineering campus at The University of Manchester

20 May 2021


Construction of the largest home for engineering in any UK university has been completed. With the conclusion of the base build phase, the Manchester Engineering Campus Development (MECD) was handed over to the University of Manchester on Friday, 14 May 2021. 

Delivered by a collaborative team of builders, architects and engineers, MECD represents the single largest construction project ever completed by a higher education institution in the UK. Building design was undertaken by Mecanoo with support from Penoyre & Prasad, with detailed design during the technical and construction stages by BDP, and multidisciplinary engineering services provided by Arup. The main contractor was Balfour Beatty and it was project managed by Buro Four, with Buro Happold as the Environmental Sustainability Advisor.

MECD will provide world-class sustainable research facilities, alongside flexible and innovative teaching and learning spaces that will enable students to shape their own learning environment.  It will house a community of 8,000 students, researchers, academics and professional services staff. This will be the largest concentration of interdisciplinary engineering expertise in any UK university.

The development incorporates a number of existing and new buildings: the eight-storey 80,000sqm Engineering Building A; Engineering Building B and the James Chadwick Building (on Upper Brook Street); refurbished Grade II listed Oddfellows Hall; and the York Street Building. MECD is home to purpose-designed blended lecture theatres, teaching laboratories, student workshops and a range of spaces to support our ambitious outreach and social engagement initiatives.

The University is committed to Environmental Sustainability, with MECD being the first project to appoint a dedicated Environmental Sustainability Advisor to develop and drive the University’s comprehensive sustainability targets throughout the project’s life cycle, including a BREEAM Excellent rating, a new active travel hub and green roof.

MECD is part of a world-class research and innovation hub and immediately adjacent to two flagship centres of excellence – the National Graphene Institute and the Henry Royce Institute, the UK’s national institute for advanced materials research and innovation. The University of Manchester is ranked as the world number one in the THE Impact Rankings and this investment will ensure that Manchester continues to be at the forefront of delivering world-class research.

Mark Pearson, Balfour Beatty Project Director, said: “We’re extremely pleased to have reached this critical milestone on such an important project – one that will transform the way in which the University of Manchester educates our future workforce of engineers.

"Despite the challenges we have faced over the last year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, works have progressed at pace with our expert team achieving final completion ahead of schedule. This significant achievement is truly testament to the strength of our collaborative culture and dedication as a project team."

Director of Estates at The University of Manchester, Diana Hampson, said: “This is a hugely significant milestone for MECD and we are delighted that the initial construction phase is now complete. MECD will create facilities that will put the University at the forefront of engineering globally, and we are proud to provide such an exceptional space for our exceptional people. We’d also like to thank all the various partners and stakeholders in getting us this point, it really has been a hugely collaborative effort.”

Professor Martin Schröder, Vice-President and Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering said: “MECD affords an exciting new environment for the delivery of interdisciplinary research, teaching and impact across engineering. We are eager to progress towards populating MECD with our staff and students, creating an inspiring, highly flexible first-class teaching and research environment that transforms the way in which the University educates engineers for the future.”

Francine Houben, Creative Director and Founding Partner of Mecanoo, said: “With the MECD, we are super-proud to play a big part in Manchester’s rise to become a centre for 21st century innovation. As the first city of the Industrial Revolution, it is a fantastic base for new engineering revolutions which will inevitably be born on the MECD campus. MECD is a key part of Manchester’s new urbanism, physically extending the city centre into its academic axis, and combining epic scale with connectivity, heritage and new public space for everyone.”

Paul Owen, Architect Associate at BDP, added: “The challenge for a project of this scale is to deliver a huge variety of adaptable spaces that support world-leading research, whilst encouraging cross-discipline collaboration and development in a city centre location. The result is a vibrant collaborative environment that supports multiple research methods. We are sure it will inspire future generations of engineers and material scientists to pioneer amazing discoveries.”

Eleanor Binns, Project Director at Buro Four, said: “A project of this scale with the extent of varied technical & functional requirements is complex from a project and programme management perspective and successful delivery can only be achieved through collaboration, commitment, planning and control. Through the expertise and efforts of the entire team, coupled with a strong vision from the client, we have reached this major milestone in the delivery of a world-class facility that will not only inspire the next generation of engineers, but is flexible and adaptable to accommodate the fast-paced change of research, teaching and workspace environments. A fantastic achievement and we look forward to seeing the building in its full use.”

Dr Tim Whitley, Director at Arup and Visiting Professor to The University of Manchester School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering, added: “It’s been fantastic to have contributed to the design and construction of the University of Manchester’s latest flagship development. The whole team has worked together to deliver a sustainable building where over 30% of spaces are naturally ventilated as part of a low carbon, energy efficient fabric first design, with flexible accommodation for high quality research and teaching for now and into the future.”


Media enquiries to:
Mehvish Arshad
Balfour Beatty
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Notes to Editors:

About Balfour Beatty:

  • Balfour Beatty ( is a leading international infrastructure group with 26,000 employees driving the delivery of powerful new solutions, shaping thinking, creating skylines and inspiring a new generation of talent to be the change-makers of tomorrow.  
  • We finance, develop, build, maintain and operate the increasingly complex and critical infrastructure that supports national economies and deliver projects at the heart of local communities. 
  • Over the last 11 years we have created iconic buildings and infrastructure all over the world including: the £1.5 billion A14 improvement scheme - Britain’s biggest road project; Hong Kong’s HK$5.5 billion world-class harbour theatre project for the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority; and the 12.5 mile $429 million North Metro Commuter Rail line in Colorado, US. 

About BDP:

  • BDP is an international interdisciplinary practice of architects, engineers, designers and urbanists. We work closely with users, clients and the community to create special places for living, working, shopping, culture and learning across the world. Founded in 1961, we now have studios across the UK, Ireland, Netherlands, UAE, India, China, Singapore and Canada. BDP has a leading track record in all major sectors including health, education, workplace, retail, urbanism, heritage, housing, transport and leisure and has won over 1000 awards for design quality.
  • In March 2016, BDP combined forces with Japan’s leading engineering practice Nippon Koei to form an integrated design group of genuine international reach. Sharing a philosophy which places an emphasis on design integration and community impact, the new group offers a unique combination of deep technical skills in engineering, architecture and the full range of design disciplines.

About Arup:

  • Arup is the creative force at the heart of many of the world’s most prominent projects in the built environment and across industry. Working in more than 140 countries, the firm’s designers, engineers, architects, planners, consultants and technical specialists work with our clients on innovative projects of the highest quality and impact.  

About Buro Four:

  • Buro Four is an independent, specialist provider of project management and associated services. Buro Four’s core service is project management, with a complementary suite of services including programme management, design management and strategic workplace advice.
  • Buro Four are experts in managing projects and programmes; providing exceptional quality, tangible value and innovative solutions at any point of a project’s lifecycle, from concept to completion.

About Mecanoo Architects:

  • Mecanoo, officially founded in Delft, the Netherlands, in 1984, is made up of a multidisciplinary staff of over 100 creative professionals from 25 countries. The team includes architects, engineers, interior designers, urban planners, landscape architects and architectural technicians. The company is led by creative director and founding partner Francine Houben.
  • The extensive collective experience, gained over three decades, results in designs that are realised with technical expertise and great attention to detail. Mecanoo’s projects range from single houses to complete neighbourhoods, skyscrapers, cities and polders, schools, train stations, theatres and libraries, hotels, museums, and even a chapel. Discovering unexpected solutions for the specifics of programme and context is the foremost challenge in all of our assignments.
  • Each design is considered in terms of its cultural setting, place and time. As such, Mecanoo treats each project as a unique design statement embedded within its context and orchestrated specifically for the people who use it. Within the practice are knowledge centres which enable us to stay current on technological and design innovations in sustainability, eco-engineering, technology, education and learning, high-rise and mobility. Preoccupied not by a focus on form, but on process, consultation, context, urban scale and integrated sustainable design strategies, the practice creates culturally significant buildings with a human touch.
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