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Hoare Lea provides acoustic design and MEP services for Birmingham City University

Case Study

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Designing a world-class performance space

As an award-winning engineering consultancy, Hoare Lea delivers a wide range of services, including MEP engineering, acoustic design, and operational engineering. The firm recently provided England’s Birmingham City University (BCU) with acoustic design and MEP services for a three-building project. Delivered over seven years, the 42,000-square-meter project spanned two office and academic buildings and a new performance and teaching facility for the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Hoare Lea was tasked to deliver a building system design that did not impede the acoustic excellence of the performance space.

Keeping noise to a minimum for conservatory

Achieving uncompromised sound was a top priority for the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. The Conservatoire required that the spaces throughout the 5 floors—a 500-seat concert hall, recital hall, practice rooms, organ studio, recording studio, and dedicated jazz club—could all be used simultaneously. This required that sound not “spill” into other spaces. The team also had to make sure that all flow rates from ducts into performance spaces were below an audible threshold.

To keep sound from building systems to a minimum in performance spaces, the team at Hoare Lea decided to place all building plant components in the corridors, which led to space challenges. The Hoare Lea team turned to software in the Autodesk AEC Collection to make this world-class space a reality, with Revit as its core tool for exploration and design. Why? The team trusted that the model-based designs Revit enables would help them manage the space constraints.

Sabrina Gill, a principal engineer with Hoare Lea, explains: “Without a model-based process using Revit, it would have been impractical to apply so much precision to engineering for all music spaces. Teams would likely have focused on the larger spaces in the design phase, with much of the coordination and exact sizing detail left for later in the process. There’s a risk of rework in the field, which is expensive and time-consuming. Revit helped us model and fine-tune the building systems in advance.”

The lobby of the Conservatoire courtesy of Hoare Lea.

"Without BIM for both modeling and engineering, it would have taken much longer to design and coordinate everything."

—Sabrina Gill, Principal Engineer, Hoare Lea

 

The right tools for the right job

When Hoare Lea teams start projects, they know they will use Revit for design because it lets them follow a process based on Building Information Modeling (BIM). But some projects require more tools than just Revit. Using the Autodesk AEC Collection means that industry-essential software along with specialized tools are always available—whatever a project’s requirements.

“We use multiple tools in our design process, and no two projects are exactly the same,” says Ben Roberts, head of digital innovation at Hoare Lea. “The AEC Collection makes many of the tools we use every day—and occasionally—available. It’s handy to have everything in one place.”

BIM model

A model of the Conservatoire courtesy of Hoare Lea.

All parameters in one model makes coordination easier

Using Revit software to model the building systems for the Conservatoire, the Hoare Lea team began work after receiving the initial concepts from Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, the architecture firm on the project. They threaded the systems through the corridors, making changes as needed to accommodate the evolving architectural and structural designs. Automations that the firm developed in Revit sized the pipes and ducts automatically. 

Using BIM 360 software, the team coordinated the project in the cloud and, as the project moved into the construction phase, they were able to stay on top of progress while minimizing time-consuming site visits.

“Having all the parameters—engineering and acoustical—within the model made it fast and easy to interpret and review,” Gill says. “Without Revit and a model-based process, it would have taken much longer to design and coordinate everything. Instead, we would have just done typical sections and spent more time coordinating during construction.”

“Revit adds insight and saves time. Take pipe and duct sizing: That saves a couple of hours per floor—more when there are changes. Data in the model helps us understand engineering choices as we make them. What can you do with that time and insight? Make spaces that sound better, are more comfortable, and perform better over their lives."

—Ben Roberts, Head of Digital Innovation, Hoare Lea

 

Blending sounds and visuals using virtual reality

While refining the design and gathering input from the client, the multidisciplinary team decided to create a 3D model of how performance spaces would look and sound. To do this, they brought the Revit model into 3ds Max modeling, animation, and rendering software to generate photorealistic 3D renderings of the space. They then connected the visualization to a virtual reality (VR) tool that also linked to audio processed with acoustical analysis software.

“The team basically compiled audio with rendered VR scenes created with Revit and 3ds Max,” Roberts says. “The result was a binaural simulation that mimicked the way a person would hear a piece of music in various locations in the Conservatoire. Acoustic specialists and the client could then get a sense of how design decisions impacted the listening experience. This helped them provide insightful feedback to the team.”

Recital space

One of the performance spaces courtesy of Hoare Lea.

More time for engineering and design

With Revit and BIM touching every aspect of the building—concept, design, and engineering—Roberts points to overall quality gains as the biggest win.

“Revit adds insight and saves time,” Roberts says. “Take pipe and duct sizing: That saves a couple of hours per floor—more when there are changes. Data in the model helps us understand engineering choices as we make them. What can you do with that time and insight? Make spaces that sound better, are more comfortable, and perform better over their lives.”

Learn more about the AEC Collection

Whether you work in building design, infrastructure design, construction, or a combination of these industries, the AEC Collection provides an essential set of tools at a great value.

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Hoare Lea provides acoustic design and MEP services for Birmingham City University

Designing a world-class performance space for Birmingham City University

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