Acoustics case study

Manchester Engineering Campus Development


The £400m Manchester Engineering Campus Development (MECD) is the largest, most ambitious single construction project completed by any UK higher education institute. The specialist engineering buildings enable a co-located community of 8000 academics to work alongside each other in a world leading research and education facility. It is not, however, the impressive scale of MECD which makes it deserving of an ANC Award. The functionality of MECD is dependent on its exemplar acoustic performance. The seven faculties must operate alongside each other without impacting on each other’s work, much of which is exceptionally noise and/or vibration sensitive ground-breaking research.


The brief from the University was to deliver a fully integrated engineering campus to house seven co-located engineering faculties and institutes. Each faculty has its own specific laboratory, teaching and research requirements, and these would need to function alongside each other. Facilities would be bespoke and spread over 80,000m2 of floor space, eight stories, four separate buildings and with a building footprint equivalent to 11 football pitches.

The basement of the development is home to highly sensitive electron microscope suites. These spaces have onerous octave band IANL criteria below the threshold of hearing, low vibration criteria, onerous reverberation time criteria and high-performance walls and floors surrounding them. There were significant engineering conflicts to overcome, and much effort and design focus was made to ensure that these criteria were all collectively met.

Above the basement are a mixture of flexible teaching, heavy engineering, lecture, research and laboratory spaces. Many of the faculties teach in laboratories and each contain purpose selected equipment with bespoke reverberation and IANL criteria to match.

A huge interconnecting atrium named “the street” runs the 200m length of the MECHall building.


Many of the laboratories were so heavily serviced that the implementation of acoustic treatment meant innovative solutions backed up by extensive acoustic modelling.

Acoustic modelling of the interconnecting atrium ensured that reverberant sound build up didn’t impact on adjacent academic spaces, and that the spaces were also suitable for use as break-out working zones.

The approach to reverberation control in the street allows all users (including catering units), to share the space successfully.

The acoustic engineering approach throughout the project was to design to “just meet”. Risk and reward were shared with the client on big ticket items such as overall levels of acoustic treatment. Requirements and levels of treatment evolved through the design informed by early on-site testing. Final testing has demonstrated very little overdesign occurred and we have succeeded in delivering a lean sustainable project.