Rochdale AMPI Fairhursts Design Group

Rochdale's Advanced Machinery & Productivity Institute is expected to grow the UK’s advanced machinery capability to a £2bn export capacity within 10 years. Credit: Rochdale Development Agency


CASE STUDY | Designing the Advanced Machinery & Productivity Institute

Alex Chanerley FDG

Crafting an innovation hub geared towards transforming the UK’s machinery manufacturing sector is no easy task. But the ability to draw from past experience and work together as a team makes it possible, writes Alex Chanerley of The Fairhursts Design Group.

Spearheaded by Rochdale Development Agency, it is hoped that the Advanced Machinery & Productivity Institute will lead the creation of a new innovation hub in the North West.

The AMPI aims to stimulate and support the proposed growth of the UK’s machinery manufacturing sector as it transitions to highly integrated digital solutions. This will enable invention, realise innovation, and grow the sector of advanced machinery and robotics throughout the UK.

AMPI’s creation will benefit businesses across the whole region, positively impacting direct and indirect local employment, as well as UK industry exports.

Fairhursts Design Group is pleased to be part of this important project. Here is how we’re approaching the design of such a facility.

MTC Fairhursts Design Group for comment piece

The Manufacturing Technology Centre represented one of the largest public sector investments in UK manufacturing. Credit: Manufacturing Technology Centre

Drawing from past experience

FDG’s prior experience of developing similar facilities allows the studio to apply fundamental and proven design solutions to its projects.

For AMPI, FDG looked back at its work on the Manufacturing Technology Centre at Ansty Park in Coventry.

FDG won a 2010 competition to design and deliver MTC, a landmark project for the area.

Like AMPI, MTC is an independent research and technology organisation with the objective of bridging the gap between academia and industry. It represented one of the largest public sector investments in UK manufacturing.

MTC opened to great fanfare in December 2011, with 16 industrial members, 44 staff, and a handful of key pieces of equipment in the workshop.

Today, MTC sits within a world-renowned campus alongside three other FDG-designed facilities, employing 700-plus employees working across the site. Its role has increased to cover not only R&D, but also training, advanced manufacturing management, and factory design.

FDG’s industrial expertise has continued to develop through projects for the likes of global power system leader Cummins Inc and aerospace giant BAE Systems. Now, it is being put to use again on this nationally significant scheme in Rochdale.

The big four

For AMPI, FDG has reinvested its specific knowledge of designing centres for research excellence by implementing strategies that have been tried and tested through years of working in the advanced manufacturing sector.

This approach has enabled the team to better advise the client and has fundamentally improved the concept design.

Four key considerations include:

  • Designing for success and catering for future expansion – having plans in place to create premises for affiliated business on adjacent plots to further increase employment, maximise ROI, and boost the local economy
  • Incorporating practical, robust, and inexpensive design solutions
  • Ensuring good quality design and image appropriate to its client and customer base
  • Accommodating privacy, confidentiality, and security provisions within a building intended for broad, multi-use, and open innovation.

Façade design

AMPI’s striking façade hasn’t been settled upon lightly, it is the combined result of thoughtful creativity and careful planning in relation to logistics, cost, speed of delivery, quality, and sustainability.

The design module repeated across the external envelopes provides a dramatic and distinct appearance for AMPI on an achievable budget.

Visual interest, particularly around the main entrance, will be achieved through the building’s façade being ‘peeled-back’ to expose the raw structure.

The architectural philosophy gives the impression of the building being partly constructed and has been chosen to reflect the process of the assembly of the machines within.

Internal considerations

Spread across two floors, AMPI’s internal accommodation will feature double height workshops, office suites, a lecture theatre, exhibition hall and restaurant.

Many of these amenities will be located within a fluid, open plan space to encourage informal interaction and collaboration – something that has proved hugely important at MTC in terms of perceived value to tenants and visitors alike.

What’s next?

When complete, AMPI is expected to grow the UK’s advanced machinery capability to a £2bn export capacity within 10 years, establishing more than 30,000 high value manufacturing sector jobs in the North West.

AMPI will also provide accommodation for higher education and further education establishments to deliver on-the-job training in advanced machinery, to act as that bridge between academia and industry.

RDA has secured £15m of funding for AMPI and work is currently being finalised on the RIBA Stage 2 Concept Design.

FDG continues to work closely with the client and its stakeholders to develop the brief and design. This in-depth understanding and empathy of the vision and business plan for AMPI, as well as FDG’s ‘one team’ approach is critical to the success of a complex project such as this one.

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