The Catalyst Innovation Centre
A state-of-the-art £50m facility located at Newcastle Helix, developed to act as a city centre focus, stimulating economic growth and job creation in ageing and data-related innovation, is set to open.
The Catalyst is part of the £350m Newcastle Helix development, a new innovation community that brings together businesses, communities and world-class innovation experts and translational researchers.
Company: NICA, the UK’s National Innovation Centre for Ageing
The landmark building hosts a suite of bespoke facilities and a range of flexible office space. Based on the old Newcastle Brown Ale brewery site, it was designed with the key considerations of inclusivity, accessibility and public user engagement/participation at its centre.
Central to the design process were the questions: “How can we make the building as age-friendly as possible, how can we engage older users in the design process and how can we design an Innovation Centre which acts as an exemplar of what can be achieved – that is innovative in functionality as well as purpose?”
From the outset, NICA, the UK’s National Innovation Centre for Ageing who were lead clients for the building worked with VOICE , a component part of NICA to engage with older citizens to help shape the design of the building and how it world work. Through ongoing consultation and specific workshops to consider key stages of the design and procurement the lived life and professional experiences of VOICE members were fed into the design and build process.
The lead users were NICA together with the members of the VOICE community who contributed their insights and professional experience to the specification of the building and various iterations of the design leading to a final agreed design. In addition to VOICE, NICA worked with the main build contractors, Newcastle University colleagues, the architects and an interior design consultancy.
Professor Patrick Bonnett, Development Director at NICA said ”Working with partners, including VOICE informed the development of a design which is an inclusive and accessible as possible and which shows what is possible if we put the user at the heart of the design process. We considered every aspect of the building – from improved wayfinding and signage, through the design and operation of seating in the Theatre, to dementia friendly meeting rooms and café furniture which is comfortable and easy to use for older members of the public.”
The result is the world’s first age friendly Innovation Centre. The environmental impact of the building was also a key consideration during its specification and design and the result is that The Catalyst has become first commercial office building in the North East to be awarded the certification of “Outstanding” by BREEAM, a rating reserved for only the top one per cent of new UK non-domestic buildings.
By placing citizen useability at the heart of the design it acts as a showcase for what can be achieved and key design considerations as we design and build in a way that helps us all age well, for longer.