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University of Nottingham – Portland Building Redevelopment

J Tomlinson managed the redevelopment of the University of Nottingham's Portland Building, with a particular focus on improving the building’s flexibility, functionality, and comfort.


Phases 2 and 3 of Portland Building redevelopment


University of Nottingham




August 2016 - February 2018

Summary of works

• Internal & external redevelopment of Portland Building
• Live university campus
• Extensive landscaping works - creation of Djanogly Terrace
• Integrated construction and M&E services

Project Background

The University of Nottingham is an award-winning global university, with over 45,000 students across campuses in the UK, China and Malaysia.

Following an extensive research project into the experiences and opinions of its alumni, as well as the preferences of the upcoming university generation, the University of Nottingham identified a pressing need for the redevelopment of its Portland Building, with a particular focus on improving the building’s flexibility, functionality, and comfort.

The Portland Building is home to student services and the Students’ Union. Originally constructed in 1956, it was felt by the university that – to more effectively meet the needs of students – the building needed to be brought up to date in line with its own modern and forward-thinking approach and culture.

Due to the size and popularity of the Portland Building, which often attracts over 18,000 people per day, it was not possible to close the building whilst development works took place. Instead, the project was split into four phases, with J Tomlinson being appointed to undertake phases two and three of the project, as well as landscaping.

J Tomlinson's Approach

Phase two

Phase two saw J Tomlinson lead the enlargement and refurbishment of the Portland building’s lobby area, as well as the formation of the peace garden and the erection of the outdoor cinema-sized video wall. The works were carried out sequentially across internal and external areas of the building.

Phase three

Phase three of the project comprised the redevelopment of levels A, B and C of the Portland Building, including the café shell, welcome hub, student services, chapel, and various retail units. In line with the programme and the client’s brief, J Tomlinson directed the order of works according to priority areas for students and staff. Office areas and the new café were created first, followed by the redecoration of the chapel; this included the installation of privacy curtains, the refurbishment of the kitchenette, and the transformation of store rooms into quiet spaces.

The Skybridge was then created at the top of the Atrium, which is designed to make the building easier to navigate for visitors. Works on the Skybridge were carried out in conjunction with other core areas and delivered through an out-of-hours service to ensure the maintenance of the building’s daily operations.

J Tomlinson’s in-house M&E team undertook and the design and installation of a range mechanical and electrical works during phase three. These included lighting, heating, drainage and ventilation.

Landscaping – Djanogly Terrace

The creation of Djanogly Terrace ran concurrently with phase three works. The redevelopment of Portland Hill saw J Tomlinson install a hard-standing pavilion, amphitheatre-style tiered-seating, and cascading water features. GPS programming was used in the creation of the steps to help ensure the visually impressive finish.

Despite the challenges presented by adverse weather conditions and the steep hill setting, the landscaping works were completed to a high standard, and help to create a greater connection between the Portland Building and the university’s picturesque parkland setting.

Following completion, the terrace is now being used as a screening venue for events.

Project Achievements

EXISTING RELATIONSHIP – having worked with the University of Nottingham on previous projects, J Tomlinson is equipped with an intimate understanding the university’s people, processes and values, with valuable footfall and noise limitation knowledge

CONSIDERATE PROGRAMMING – The programme was tailored to ensure key campus activities – including graduation ceremonies – were not disrupted

LIVE SITE – working across a live campus, J Tomlinson ensured that all efforts were made to minimise disruption to the university’s operations. This was achieved through pre-scheduled deliveries, an out-of-hours service, and the clear segregation of work areas from public access

CONCURRENT WORKING – where possible, work streams were undertaken concurrently to maximise efficiency

IN-HOUSE M&E – J Tomlinson’s M&E department provided modern, bespoke lighting, ventilation and heating solutions to the university