Construction Value: £3.4m

Client: Royal West of England Academy

Contact: Childs Sulzmann

QODA were appointed as building services and sustainability engineers alongside QODA Light who were appointed as lighting designers for the Light and Inspiration Project at the Royal West of England Academy of Arts (RWA). The project aimed to transform the experience for visitors and communities within the spectacular Grade II* listed building.

The RWA provides an extensive programme of exhibitions, events, workshops, talks, and lectures, providing great art for everybody, and promoting the understanding and enjoyment of art for the widest possible audience.

The project involved remodelling the building’s exterior, including the installation of several wider openings; enlargement of the café and improvements to the retail and reception areas; the replacement of two vast gallery roof lanterns including automatic opening skylights; the transformation of the forecourt and main foyer into a social space; the introduction of advanced digital technology including equipment for on-site marketing and e-commerce, under floor heating and air source heat pumps to improve energy efficiency, and upgraded utilities; the introduction of a Changing Places Facility, complete with adult changing table, and wet room, essential for those with profound disabilities, and the installation of an external lift.

The new, ceramic-clad, three-metre-height lift is particularly transformational in terms of access and can carry four wheelchair users and their carers. It also significantly enhances the RWA’s management of art. Previously, much of the art, from paintings to sculptures, had to be transported up to the first-floor gallery via the main stone staircase.

The façade of the building has been sympathetically reworked and six huge arched windows have had the sills and brickwork under them removed to create impressive, full-length glass doors, adding more light and accessibility to the front of the building and extending the café outside.

The painstaking replacement of the two vast 4m x 10m thermally insulated steel-framed roof lanterns, sitting 14m above the main gallery, took about three weeks. The original lanterns were broken out section by section and the new ones lowered in by crane in sections.

A key driver of the project was to improve the conditions within gallery spaces which were suffering from overheating. QODA carried out extensive thermal modelling to inform the introduction of an automatic natural ventilation system together with new underfloor heating and Air Source Heat Pumps to allow the removal of gas from the site entirely. The upgrades have vastly improved the experience for visitors and volunteers as well improving energy efficiency, reducing costs, and decreasing the environmental impact.

The magnificent Sharples and Winterstoke galleries have benefited from upgraded lighting with modern flexible systems. The lighting for the reception, main circulation routes, and façade now all benefit from upgraded lighting, sensitively introduced to complement the spaces.

The project received funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF).