University Awards 2017: buildings that inspire

The annual Guardian University Awards are a celebration of everything that is great about British higher education. Institutions across the country are invited to identify an area – not necessarily academic – in which they are breaking new ground and standing out from the crowd and to apply to be recognised in the awards ceremony for their accomplishments.

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The awards categories include: advancement of equality, entrepreneurship, employability, research, marketing and communications, diversity and international co-operation. As laudable as the achievement of winning any of these awards unquestionably is, one of the most hotly anticipated and closely fought accolades is reserved for the most inspirational university building.

Buildings That Inspire

An important yearly reminder that inspirational buildings aren’t a thing of the past and that exciting, innovative and aesthetically pleasing construction projects are under way up and down the United Kingdom, the award is given for the new university building or redevelopment that improves the lives of staff, students and visitors. This year’s worthy winner was Nottingham Trent University Pavilion.

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Nottingham Trent University Pavilion

Designed to house a collaborative learning centre, the Pavilion generally impressed judges with its iconic appearance. Full-height and glazed, the installation enhances the visual amenities of the Clifton campus. But the feature distinguishing the Pavilion from the admittedly impressive competition was its enthusiastic adhesion to the Passivhaus Principle, meaning that it was designed to the highest environmental standards and that carbon-neutrality was the ultimate ambition. In this objective, the architects were spectacularly successful: the Pavilion generates more energy than it uses!

Design Features

One of the outstanding points of the Pavilion’s design is that it uses a timber frame such as those manufactured by timber frame construction company It also features automated shutters, natural ventilation and daylight reactive LED lighting. The external aspects of the Pavilion have not been neglected, however, and a beautifully landscaped plaza provides for biodiversity and delivers a habitat for native species.


The Pavilion faced fierce competition from several other higher education institutions, with the following receiving well-deserved praise from the judges:

– University of Essex Business School
– Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre

We look forward to next year’s awards, although the 2018 winner will need to create something truly remarkable to surpass the Nottingham Trent University Pavilion.