The impact of LSE’s distinctive £125 million Centre Building designed by RSHP has been transformative. Situated in the heart of the campus, its associated new outdoor plaza and through-route through connecting the plaza to Clement’s Lane contribute significantly to campus porosity, connectivity and conviviality. Its internal programme advanced innovation in the School’s range of spaces for study, research, teaching and learning. The building incorporates offices for academics and administrators, work and support facilities for PhDs, lecture halls and other teaching spaces, a significant student ‘learning commons’, and external terraces. Heavily predicated on passive design, Centre Building also progressed LSE’s adoption of zero carbon as a goal, with almost full reliance on operable windows and natural ventilation, except in the teaching spaces.
Given the design’s commitment to passive servicing, evidence of users’ thermal experience was especially important, and after it opened for use mid-2019, ZZA’s POE covered occupants’ experience in the initial summer conditions. Summer 2019 in London seen a heatwave, during which the Centre Building’s interior performed favourably relative to atypically high external temperatures of 38 degrees. In the core POE research undertaken in winter, a majority of the interview sample evaluated the air ‘feeling fresh’, and the temperature in their work or study area as ‘feeling mostly right now’. Users most cited ‘favourite thing about the building’ was another aspect of internal environmental experience – the building’s natural light, instanced across the range of users – students in the learning commons, and PhDs, administrators and academics on the building’s upper floors.
The overall positive effect on user experience is captured in interviewees’ narrative comments, like: “It’s a lovely building, and the mixed uses is nice. A very nice atmosphere. The students love it, but there’s not enough space for them now.”
This references the implications of Centre Building’s popularity, which was further evidenced by ZZA’s study of perceived quality of the LSE campus in autumn 2019, identifying it as students’ favourite building on the campus – by a long margin.
The findings on Centre Building’s effects endorsed the direction the School had taken in its procurement: “It’s a very pleasant modern building – it serves very well as a space for people to do what they want. The university could have more of these spaces.” This reinforced the LSE’s rationale in developing the follow-up Marshall Building which was already under construction on campus.