University of Essex Business School

Photography: BDP / Nick Caville and Gareth Gardner

For lighting the lecture centre in the first zero-carbon business school in the UK, BDP needed an energy efficient solution while ensuring an inspirational learning environment is delivered to the University of Essex students. BDP turned to Precision, and with close co-operation, delivered a completely bespoke suspended light ring featuring Basis Track and over 60 LED spotlights from the Evo X family.

 BDP were selected from a shortlist of six design teams to design the £14 million Essex Business School, in recognition of the extensive experience the multi-disciplinary practice has in the higher education sector.

On account of the Business School’s ethos for responsible management and sustainable business, BDP were charged with delivering a stimulating environment that inspired the next generation of ethical business leaders. The resulting campus, complete with winter garden and integrated bio-dome, saves over a tonne of carbon each day thanks to the unique design of the building and use of low-carbon technologies.

The sustainability of the the building is visually obvious, with clear references to the commitment through the choice of materials, including timber frames and cladding, and a photovoltaic covered roof, designed to provide a source of renewable energy. 

BDP carried through this sustainable aesthetic with the choice of structure for the lecture centre, the hub of academic study within the new Business School. Set within a colossal domed timber frame, the beam work has been configured in an extrapolating starburst arrangement that extends towards the curved walls.

For lighting this fantastic space, BDP approached Precision with the aim of developing a lighting installation that could follow the curvature of the building, while also delivering evenly distributed light efficiently throughout the lecture centre.

Working closely with BDP, Precision developed a 9m diameter bespoke chandelier; curved rubbed bronze Basis Track runs through the internal trough of the support ring, providing a convenient low-voltage track system which the Evo X spotlights could be mounted to.

The support ring, following a ‘H channel’ profile, provided support to the Basis configuration, while also offering an opportunity for Precision’s custom product team to integrate up-lighting into the chandelier. LED strip lighting, tuned to a matching colour temperature provides an upwards glow at the crowning of the domed lecture theatre, revealing the warmth and quality of the timber used in the beam structure.

The complete installation weighed approximately 200kg and consists of over 35m of Basis Track; such an engineering feat required close co-operation between BDP and Precision from concept through to delivery. 

Precision’s bespoke service, which ranges from simple stem extensions and custom RAL powder coating through to completely customised luminaires and systems, involves an inclusive approach to project development.

Working carefully with all parties, the custom project team not only design and build custom componentry, but also provide detailed concept documentation, full technical submittals and produce custom installation instructions, all to ensure smooth progress throughout the development of bespoke projects. This far-reaching approach has even seen site visits from the engineering team for commissioning of installations when required.

Precision’s Evo X16 LED spotlights, with a minimalist design and complimenting antique bronze powdercoat finish, also contributed to the efficient design. The spotlights specified for the light ring deliver an excellent output of 630lm, from just 9.8W. Recent refinement of the Evo X LED module sees the Evo X16 now available with a lumen package of 712lm with no increase of power consumption.

The 40-degree optics used in the 67 Evo X16 luminaires allow for an even wash of light from the light ring, while an additional section of Basis Track bisects the light ring and provides additional spotlights for the centre of the lecture theatre.

At ground-level, full-height windows feature within the periphery walls of the theatre. The combination of the cooler daylight at lower levels, with the warmth of the up-light reflected from the beam structure allows for a balanced appeal, and reduces the need for artificial lighting at ground level. This is further evidence of the systematic approach that BDP employed in designing a carbon neutral building, without compromising on the aesthetic appeal of the space. 

Lighting Designer



London, United Kingdom