Campus for the Future, University of York

We supported GRAHAM to deliver a 1,480-bed, student accommodation development for the University of York’s ‘Campus for the Future’ masterplan to help transform their Heslington East Campus. The £130m, award-winning flagship scheme was developed using Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) and achieved BREEAM Excellent certification.

Key details

Project name

Campus for the Future, University of York




Heslington East, University of York, York

Services provided

- Mechanical Engineering

- Electrical Engineering

- Sustainability

Project awards

RIBA Yorkshire Regional Award Winner 2023, Construction News Awards: MMC Project of the Year


The new campus is connected to the University's existing, site-wide utility infrastructure, including the district heating network. All the connections and diversions were carefully detailed and coordinated before works commenced onsite to ensure any disruptions or potential risks to the existing campus buildings were managed or mitigated.

Our initial thermal modelling, undertaken with IES Virtual Environment Software, indicated that with a lightweight construction, the corridors and bedrooms would overheat in the summer, meaning mechanical cooling was required. So, we chose to use prefabricated concrete panels for the walls and floors, which suited a tight construction programme to meet a modular off-site heavy weight construction.


We developed the environmental design scheme adopting modern methods of construction (MMC), including off-site manufacture of the building fabric and bathroom pods for the accommodation blocks. We carefully designed and analysed each block to maximise the benefits of passive sustainability measures, such as thermal mass, solar shading and night cooling.

We thermally modelled the building and demonstrated that mechanical cooling could be avoided by using the thermal mass of the concrete to absorb the internal heat gains generated during the day. We advised how the thermal mass could be exposed without affecting the acoustics or the aesthetic appeal of the original design.

Robust building detailing delivered the student residential buildings with an airtightness value of less than 1.5 m³/h/m whilst maintaining indoor air quality.

The bedrooms are designed with a large opening window with external feature grillage, which regulates natural airflow while providing shading.

Different options for the window arrangement were thermally modelled to arrive at an optimised solution which would deliver enhanced results compared to a high and low-level window opening arrangement.

The ventilation design allowed the external façade to introduce high levels of daylight through a large glazed (non-opening) window, which also restricts the opening to no more than 100mm for safety and security reasons and is supplemented by the opening window. This has enabled a low energy sustainable solution that provides excellent conditions all year around. The occupants can choose natural or mechanical ventilation to suit their individual requirements.

thermally modelled windows, mmc, energy efficiency

Campus for the Future

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    Modern methods of construction, University of York, Campus for the Future, award-winning project
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