Engine Shed conversion at University of Northampton wins Architecture Award

The conversion of a derelict railway engine shed built in the 1800’s into the home of the Students’ Union at the University of Northampton has won an Architects Journal Retrofit Award.

After extensive fire damage from an arson attack in 2000, the building was a gutted shell, abandoned and overgrown. But – recognising its potential – the University worked with architects MCW to breathe new life into the structure and make it the heart of student activity on campus.

Now the Engine Shed is the home of the University of Northampton Students’ Union on the Waterside Campus, offering representation, advice, sports and societies to all students, as well as a café which is open to the public.

The panel of expert judges were particularly impressed that the restoration had been certified as “Bream Excellent” – the world’s longest established method of assessing, rating, and certifying the sustainability of buildings. The upgrade achieves the rating partly through reworking historical features, such as the continuous roof vent to assist natural ventilation, while improving the building’s fabric thermally. “From ruins to BREEAM Excellent is laudable,” said one judge.

In 2016, the University of Northampton Students’ Union received a confirmed grant of £1,323,300 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the restoration of the Engine Shed building.