Friday, March 24, 2023

Field Trip to Belgium and The Netherlands January 2023

Group photo in Antwerp (Museum Aan de Stroom) at the start of the field trip

A group of second year students from the undergraduate courses in Construction went on a field trip to Belgium and The Netherlands at the end of January 2023. Words by Lindsey Harrison and photos by Collin Kalayil Roy...

Day 1: After leaving Oxford Brookes at 4.30am the first stop was Antwerp in Belgium  where we stopped at the old port area. The new port is the largest in Europe and is a few miles out of town and the old port area has been developed for leisure. The centrepiece is the MAS Museum Aan de Stroom which was amazing to see. We spent time walking through it and going to the rooftop viewing area. We were able to see close up the innovative construction methods which allow for the corrugated glass panels to withstand the forces exerted on them, and to see also the extent of the detailing on the building, for example the hand motif used throughout which refers back to the myth about the founding of Antwerp.

The old port in Antwerp

Floating homes at Ijburg

Walking through Ijburg

Day 2: On our first full day in Amsterdam, we visited the Ijburg area where land has been created by making artificial islands from material dredged from the sea. Once the ground has stabilised the islands are built on. Apart from the incredible vision of this project and the very complex engineering challenges which are impressive enough in themselves, the other commendable aspect of the development is that it is not just creating residential housing but all the infrastructure has been planned out too so the area has excellent roads, public transport links, bike paths, schools, playparks and so on.
Alongside the islands there are also floating homes which are permanently tethered to the land but float on the water. Again this is an imaginative solution to Amsterdam’s problem of lack of space and abundance of water. It is also an interesting solution to the problems of flooding caused by water levels rising due to climate change. 

Sluishuis - the first floating structure in the Ijburg district. It is a residential building comprising
442 flats with 60% available to rent...

...and up on the roof where there are 2200 m2 of solar panels with an EPC rating of -0.02

In the afternoon we looked at some projects in central Amsterdam. This is an ambitious underground carpark at Ponsteiger which is being constructed underneath a canal. The engineering is complex and the canal has been emptied to allow construction to take place. All the materials are delivered by electric powered barge to cut down on construction traffic and reduce emissions. The crane is on runners so it can take the deliveries off the barge and put them down where they are needed on the site. The local residents had been opposed to this project and cutting construction traffic had been one way to address some of their concerns.

Carpark construction at Ponsteiger

Rotterdam where it was freezing cold...

Day 3: Rotterdam. Where we explored some of its distinctive architecture - cube homes built in the 1960s and striking and individual skyscrapers. The planners in Rotterdam seem very willing to allow new and innovative architecture. It has fewer heritage buildings than Amsterdam as it was badly bombed during the war and so it is free to reinvent itself, which it does with imagination and flair.

This is a floating office in Rotterdam Harbour, Rijnhaven, which is entirely off grid. One of the architects who works there gave us a tour and explained the main features of it. It uses the water in the harbour to regulate passive heating and cooling.

The floating office...

...and the tour

The Deloitte Building

At the end of our Rotterdam visit we were given a very interesting tour of the Deloitte Building by the facilities management team. We were very well looked after by them and by the end of the tour we had some real insights into what sort of problems an FM team faces every day in an effort to keep a building that size functioning.

Day 4:  And we visited the Zuid district of Amsterdam. Zuid is an area to the south of the city which is undergoing a very lengthy and extensive redevelopment. The hope is to place many of the businesses there which will ease the pressure on central Amsterdam both in terms of office space and traffic flow. Excellent public transport links have been planned and a range of building styles used to create interest. Emphasis has been placed on setting up a mixed community so that it has a sense of place rather than becoming a faceless business district.

The city planner, Paco Bunnik, gave us an interesting talk in the planners’ offices to explain the rationale behind this development and then a tour of some of the projects which have already been built.

Then we visited a Zuid project called The Valley, it is supposed to resemble a street but a vertical one. The architecture and construction quality were outstanding...

In the afternoon of our last day we were free to explore Amsterdam starting in the museum district with a visit to the Stedljik Museum of Modern Art.

Day 5: Return to Oxford via the Rotterdam Port Visitor Centre where the students had a go on a VR game to load up a container ship...

For more information about the courses at Oxford Brookes, take a look here:

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Graduation 2020 and 2021 - it finally happened!

 After two years of missing, GRADUATION IS BACK! It was so good to see all the students, families, friends and staff who turned up to celebrate Graduation 2020 and 2021 in person on 18 May and 24 May 2022. Some photos and videos of the extra special day for undergraduate and postgraduate students who graduated from courses in Real Estate, Planning and Construction. Enjoy!

Graduation 2020 (held on 18 May 2022)...

And now for Graduation 2021, held on 24 May 2022...

For more information on any of our courses, take a look at the School of the Built Environment website:

MSc field trip to Bath

Earlier this month, a group of postgraduate students in construction went on a field trip to Bath. Here's what they did - click on the green links for more information. And thanks to staff and students for all the photos...

Taking the train from Oxford they arrived at Bath Spa station

The first stop was a meeting with Sustainability Engineers at Buro Happold for a talk about 'Climate Emergency – What does it mean for Project Managers?' This included a talk about the impact of climate on design decisions made for structural and mechanical engineers involved in specifying the building which led to a discussion about how project managers can also encourage low carbon buildings. Next, students and staff walked through Bath city centre to Bath Abbey taking a look at the Roman Baths on the way. The students were able to visit the technical plant room in Bath Abbey, where a series of heat exchangers have been used to take waste heat from the Roman Baths to heat the Abbey.

This was followed by a site visit to North Parade Student Housing Development hosted by REAL Developments...

Staff and students then enjoyed a walk around Georgian Bath - including the Royal Crescent, Bath Assembly Rooms and the Roman Baths

For more information about the City of Bath (a World Heritage Site) take a look at the World Heritage Site website. 

To find out more about the postgraduate courses in construction at Oxford Brookes, click on the following links: