MECD enable flexible teaching, learning and study spaces across campus

I was very pleased that we had the opportunity to work with Pure AV on a project of this scale. I’m immensely proud of how we’ve collectively progressed through the project and delivered it to the absolutely fantastic end result we now have.

- Trevor Byrne, Head of Media Services, MECD

The Manchester Engineering Campus Development (MECD) represents one of the single largest construction projects completed by a higher education institution in the UK and is the new home for engineering and material science at Manchester University.

An extensive project with approximately 2200 rooms, the £420m development at the heart of Manchester city centre covers a 76,000m2 floor space, providing modern facilities in a bespoke environment to support research and teaching for more than 8,000 students and staff.

The development included two linked new-build constructions of nine and five storeys (Engineering Buildings A and B) and an extension to an existing four-storey grade II listed building (Oddfellows Hall). 

Engineering Buildings A and B feature two tiered lecture theatres, four teaching clusters, 122 Meet & Teach rooms, interconnected teaching spaces made up of 5 large teaching areas, an open plan blended lecture theatre and an innovative dry lab/lecture theatre, all underpinned by the latest in AV technology. 

Nestled alongside the new buildings, Oddfellows Hall carries the same technology through into teaching spaces, restaurant and office areas to add a multi-faced workspace, conferencing and social venue into the MECD hub.


The Solution

The AV system is designed to enable flexible teaching, learning and study spaces that support diverse educational styles and encourage the multi-discipline and multi-level exchange of ideas between students.

Flexibility is at the heart of the MECD’s design, and standards that create simple but effective teaching environments are the key to its success. 

Three main categories of room types have been established, known as Meet & Teach, Labs and workshops and specialist spaces. Each type varies in functionality and equipment specification, but common across all is a focus on a consistent, high-quality user experience, standardised control and integration with the University’s preferred resource management system, Extron GVE.

The meet and teach space at MECD

Building-wide AV over IP (Extron NAV), including 143 endpoints, enables the University to send content freely around the building creating enormous flexibility for teaching and events.

Blended Theatre 1  provides a divisable space for group study and blended activity for up to 150 people. It is designed to enable the free movement of the academic between student groups, who connect with trolley mounted Panasonic displays located throughout the space using Mersive’s Solstice wireless collaboration technology. The only fixed piece of AV is a Sapphire projection screen and 10,000 lumens Panasonic projector. The trolley mounted Panasonic displays act as repeater screens to ensure student visibility when coming together for full group learning. The audio provided by ceiling-mounted JBL pendant speakers can also extend into the café area when the walls are opened up, further reinforcing the areas’ flexible aspect.

MECD isn’t something that’s set-in-stone. It has been designed to allow for change and the the future demands that industry lays upon us.

- Gianpaolo Vignali, Academic Lead for Teaching, MECD

AV enabled student workspaces are found throughout the building. Freely accessible, these areas contain large format displays, Kaptivo whiteboard capture cameras and Extron push-button control. Mersive Solstice provides wireless connectivity, or students can connect via HDMI.

Two lecture theatres with capacities of 600 and 450 provide tiered-seated venues for large group teaching and conferences. There is three-screen projection (via Panasonic 12,000 lumens projectors), full AV lecterns, digital Sennheiser mics, Martin Audio loudspeakers and amps, Yamaha Stage Boxes and mixers, and Wolfvision visualisers, together with Extron video switching, distribution and control.

Additional technology such as Panasonic camera systems, Blackmagic live production mixing and recording, event lighting and confidence monitors have been added to enhance the rooms’ event credentials. The lecterns can also be relocated to multiple positions to cater for different event configurations.

The architectural design created a significant challenge within these spaces as the control rooms could not be placed in their typical position at the rear of the lecture theatres. As a result, both theatres have remote control rooms in which the theatres are viewed and managed via high-end cameras with full audio monitoring.

Four computer clusters (the biggest one seats 160 students) create space for teaching or individual study. The design places two monitors on each desk; the second intended to remove any line of sight challenges when used in teaching mode by receiving lecturer driven content transmitted via Microsoft Teams. There is no fixed teaching point, and voice amplification and JBL pendant speakers allow teachers to teach from any location.

Over 100 smaller teaching spaces are dispersed throughout the MECD building which offer small group teaching or independent group working areas. The design is consistent with display and audio hardware scaled to match the size of the room and also features conference camera’s and white boarding cameras for additional collaborative flexibility. AV over IP connects the rooms into the University’s network of flexible spaces, should timetabling or events demand it.

An atrium area with four Interconnected teaching spaces can be opened up and connected in any combination. The rooms have projection and repeater screens to aid student sightlines, and the furniture is on wheels to further boost flexibility. All areas are matrixed and feature PTZ cameras, AV over IP and local AV cabinets. A lecturer could control one room, all rooms or any combination in between, and supported by the zoned audio and camera system be seen and heard by all.

The blended lecture theatre at MECD

A standout space on the MECD campus is Blended Theatre 2/ Dry Teaching Lab. Its innovative design creates the opportunity for students to combine lecture-based learning and practical skills development seamlessly. The blended lecture theatre opens out onto a 160-seat Dry Teaching laboratory, and students can move between them as they switch between theoretical and hands-on learning. There are seven LG videowalls on the lecture theatre side in 2 x 2 format. The academic can use these to lead the class, or students can control them via Mersive Solstice during group activities. Above the divisible wall, twin Panasonic projection onto retractable electric screens provides additional full-class presentation options. Control is kept straightforward and managed from two different spaces on touch monitors. 

We can send a source from any room to any other room. Having the NAV system turns the entire MECD into one giant flexible learning space.

- Trevor Byrne, Head of Media Services, MECD


The Benefits

The blended learning space is considered to set the industry standard for teaching and learning in science and engineering. It is enormously popular with students who enjoy taking theoretical knowledge and applying it immediately. From an academic perspective, it represents a way to accelerate student understanding of key theoretical concepts and progression between the assimilation of knowledge and its practical application.  

With building-wide AV over IP, a clear set of standards and systems designed as a partnership between the technical and academic teams, Pure AV and the Team at MECD have created a living environment that exceeds students’ expectations. It is a future-ready space able to evolve with the demands of students, academics and industry.

Are you ready to start your next audio visual project? Contact our team of experts today!