The University of Sheffield’s new Engineering Heartspace building has won a prestigious award for social impact from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

The RICS Social Impact Awards focus on how the built environment can have a positive and transformative effect on society.

The Engineering Heartspace won the top award in the Education category in the Yorkshire and Humber region, recognising the unique approach taken to refurbishing and developing two of the University’s oldest buildings.

The state-of-the-art Engineering Heartspace, which opened in January, houses laboratory, employability and social spaces under a modern curved glass roof and links the Grade II listed Sir Frederick Mappin Building with the 1885 Central Wing. The cathedral-like atrium area forms a spectacular focal point for the Faculty of Engineering’s staff and students.

The new facilities include a dedicated employability hub, designed to help businesses from the Sheffield City Region, across the UK and around the world to meet with engineering students to aid collaborations. This will also make industrial placements, internships, skills sessions and graduate opportunities more accessible than ever for students.

Keith Lilley, Director of Infrastructure for the University of Sheffield, said: “It’s an honour to be recognised by RICS for our fantastic Engineering Heartspace, particularly in the education category. We are rightfully proud of how our estate supports students and staff in research, learning and teaching, and this ambitious project is already transforming the way our community studies and works.

“This award is testament to the hard work of our University project team including Helen Lally, Jonathan Crockett and Mark Holden. Project managers and Building Surveyors Castle Owen, and colleagues from Bond Bryan Architects, Turner & Townsend and Interserve, were also critical to achieving the superb design and quality finish we need for our students and staff.

“From inception, we carefully considered interventions that would make the completed project more efficient, both environmentally and in functionality. It’s pleasing to see the Engineering Heartspace acknowledged for excellence among its peers.”

Professor Mike Hounslow, Vice-President and Head of the University’s Faculty of Engineering, said: “Through the careful restoration of the Sir Frederick Mappin Building and the 1885 Central Wing, and the transformation of a previously derelict courtyard, we have retained the heritage and character of this unique collection of buildings while making it part of our world-leading offer in engineering learning, teaching and research.

“It’s an interactive space, designed to encourage collaboration between engineering disciplines. The benefit to our academic community is significant and it’s been exciting to see businesses and the wider Sheffield public utilise it as well.”

The ‘repair rather than replace’ strategy on this project has ensured that the historical features of the two buildings are now preserved for future generations. These are also protected from the elements beneath the enclosed glass roof, which has improved the thermal performance of the existing buildings. The atrium is naturally ventilated using automatically operated openings, which provide fresh air to occupants and allow for purge ventilation overnight.

Head judge from the RICS delegation, Mark Rugg, said: “The Engineering Heartspace blends the old with the new by linking two 19th century buildings with a dynamic and innovative glazed roof. The result is an engineering masterpiece that houses students from around the world, and a workspace that drives collaboration. The project team overcame adverse market conditions and managed to put social value at the heart of the scheme, using consultants and companies from the local area.”

Professor Hounslow added: “There is no better place to train the country’s future engineers and conduct the research to transform our industries.”

The Engineering Heartspace will now go up against other regional education category winners at the grand final of the RICS Social Impact awards in October.