Blog: Building Project of the Year +£10m SECBE Awards 2020 finalist - Kingston University Town House

21 April 2020

sponsored by Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield

Building Project of the Year +£10m SECBE Awards 2020 finalist - Kingston University Town House (submitted by Willmott Dixon)

Town House, from Willmott Dixon and their partners, has been conceived with the desire to put community at the heart of Kingston and reconfigure the learning experience for University students. Intended to be a ‘front door’ to the town, the design was a collaboration between the local community, faculty staff, students and alumni to build stronger links with the town centre and connect its student population with residents and workers. 

Its aim is to promote learning, and as a cultural community hub, the 9,400sqm of open space encourages creativity and positive social interaction between students, community groups, performers and artists. It houses an academic library and archive, an open auditorium, dance studios, adaptable learning space and two cafés.

In more detail

Town House is a bespoke project that was designed by RIBA Gold Medallist Grafton Architects. The practice was selected by the University from a five-strong shortlist following a competition initiative by Kingston University in conjunction with RIBA in 2013.

Reflective of the external cloisters seen in Northern European architecture, Town House has been designed to slot into its surroundings and takes inspiration from nearby buildings including Hampton Court Palace. Although much of the building is constructed from precast concrete, it includes a traditional hand-laid full brick finish to the cladding panels across the exterior elevations and sections of Portland Stone to its exterior façade.

Collaboration between Willmott Dixon, the architect and the University was key to the successful completion of this project. The complexity of the design resulted in numerous challenges before and during construction. The precast concrete was constructed to BIM Level 2 protocols meaning fortnightly design meetings were held between precast frame supplier PCE and mechanical and electrical specialists DES Group and CMB Engineering. Together the team incorporated the completed M&E design within the frame immediately. These meetings continued throughout to manage clash detection.

Willmott Dixon’s category A specialists were called upon from its supply chain, and, along with the University and Grafton Architects, Willmott Dixon created a ‘one-team culture’ to ensure the build’s exacting standards were met.

Hitting environmental standards throughout the build process and in operation to create a benchmark for others to follow was also important. Town House is rated BREEAM Excellent for its sustainability and includes a photovoltaic array, a large SUDS system, underfloor cooling, brown roofs and roof gardens.

One of Wilmott Dixon’s up-skilling academies ‘Building Lives’ was also set up nearby. The academies help young people to improve their job prospects and learn life-long skills through construction-related training. Once trained they can apply for placements with Willmott Dixon, supply chain partners and other jobs advertised through the local employment service. A number of apprentices were employed to work on Town House.

In its first week, the building was buzzing with visitors and use of the library was up by 70%.

Vice-Chancellor of Kingston University, Professor Steven Spier:

“Willmott Dixon are integral to what makes this building exceptional and played a pivotal role in the relationship between client, architect and builder. They were equally committed to a quality building and shared our ethos in making such a positive contribution to the community.”


  • Social impact and legacy – this building has improved learning and community engagement, encouraging university buildings to be better communal spaces.
  • Sustainability – a BREEAM Excellent rated building with innovative features.
  • Collaboration – a fine example of how teamwork and collaboration can create unique, high-quality structures for a purpose beyond profit.

About the Building Project of the Year Award - sponsored by Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield

The SECBE Awards team look for outstanding local projects that: demonstrate great team working between the client and entire supply chain; were delivered before the programmed completion date, below the approved cost plan and to quality exceeding expectation whilst delivering the highest of health and safety standards; achieved the lowest environmental impacts; delivered outstanding customer satisfaction and may have also received praise from other stakeholders, and demonstrates the highest levels of the application of best practice, innovation and technical achievement to overcome the project’s challenges.

> Find out more about the other finalists here

Recent Blog Posts

SECBE Awards 2021 finalist - Bicester Heritage
13 May 2021
sponsored by Artelia Group
Read More

SECBE Awards 2021 finalist - hub by Premier Inn, Shoreditch
13 May 2021
sponsored by Artelia Group
Read More

SECBE Awards 2021 finalist - Long Curtain Moat
13 May 2021
sponsored by Artelia Group
Read More