A phoenix rises from the ashes

Transforming a heritage brewery into an ecosystem for construction excellence

  • Projects


Ravaged by fire, with heritage-listed buildings on the brink of collapse, Springfield Brewery was destined for demolition when the University of Wolverhampton purchased the sprawling 12-acre site in 2014. Within weeks, the university had laid out plans to transform the Grade II site into a £120 million super-campus for construction.

The new School of Architecture and Built Environment, or SoABE, boasts 21st century teaching and learning spaces – design studios, digital facilities, specialist labs and immersive lecture theatres – all set against a spectacular heritage backdrop. New build elements echo the lines and scale of the historic building, while delivering flexible and future-proofed space for the UK’s next generation of architecture, design and construction leaders.

At a glance

  • Client
    University of Wolverhampton
  • Services
    Project & Programme Success
  • sector
    Education & Research
  • Location
    Wolverhampton, United Kingdom

A new chapter for an old favourite

The University of Wolverhampton had a clear vision to protect and preserve the old while creating a future-focused campus and a new chapter for the city. To bring that vision to life, the university needed fresh perspectives and flawless execution, so turned to RLB for help.

RLB held a dual role over the course of the project, acting as both external and client-side project manager. Deeply embedded in the university’s team, RLB understood the project inside and out, working closely with academic departments, facilities management teams, contractors and the community to exceed expectations.

This ambitious vision to transform a derelict site into a thriving campus for construction excellence never wavered. RLB’s team was proud to play our part delivering Associate Architects’ innovative heritage design and bringing the university’s imagination to life.
Stephen Scott, Partner, RLB

As Steven Lamb, the University of Wolverhampton’s Assistant Director of Estates said: “RLB’s collaborative approach and positive attitude helped to deliver our unique and complex flagship project under extremely challenging timescales, with project close-out in the midst of the recent global coronavirus pandemic. Their attention to detail, personal engagement with the project team and the numerous stakeholders involved, helped the university to deliver a world class learning and research facility.”

Brownfield regeneration brilliance

The remediation works were extensive but the university was committed to preserving the site’s heritage, right down to the iconic clock tower, which is an exact replica of the original constructed in 1922.

Thousands of bricks were reclaimed from damaged sections of the building for reuse, dozens of elaborate lead light windows were removed from rotten frames and restored, while original doors were refitted.

  • 8,000
    of state-of-the-art teaching space
  • £
  • 12
    site transformed into Europe’s largest construction campus

A new era for construction education

At its peak, Springfield Brewery produced 1,500 barrels of beer a week and employed 900 people. By breathing new life into a heritage beauty, the University of Wolverhampton has created a new thriving ecosystem for excellence, while creating jobs and economic opportunity for the community. Applauding the project, Councillor Ian Brookfield, Leader of City of Wolverhampton Council noted: “This is a catalyst for transformation – a symbol of the city’s resurgence, helping us to reimagine our city centre and transforming it.”

Heritage hero

SoABE has secured Wolverhampton’s reputation as a world leader in skills development, research and innovation in the built environment. As Michelle Donelan MP, Minister of State for Universities, has said: “We need to tackle skills shortages and, through projects like this, we are making our technical education world-leading. This is an amazing facility that will truly boost the Midlands Engine and act as a catalyst of skills regeneration.”