Designing for the future of digital education

Exeter College - Institute of Technology

Location Exeter
Client Exeter College
Awards Winner of the Michelmores Property Awards Education Project of the Year 2021 / Shortlisted for Constructing Excellence South West Project of the Year / Client of the Year / Value Award 2021 and the Michelmores Property Awards Building of the Year

A brief history

In 2016, AWW began working with the College on their property strategy. This initial review was expanded by to form a masterplan, covering the next 15 years of development on the Hele Road Campus. The Digital and Data Centre is the first phase of this masterplan. The project comprises two parts, a dedicated facility for the teaching of digital and data technologies funded by the Institute of Technology, and the refurbishment of the existing adjoining Hele Building which will be used to teach the new T-Levels.

Project vision

As the first phase of the masterplan, the new building is intended to demonstrate the new invigorated proposals for the site. The building will act as the new reception and front door to the college and seeks to showcase new ways of teaching and learning in an open and collaborative new building.

The design solution

Arranged around a central atrium and feature staircase, the specialist digital and data teaching spaces open on to perimeter balconies, allowing visual connection across all levels.

The new IoT facility hugs the original Hele building to present a new and bold entrance to the college. Conceived as an open-ended block, the entrance is signified by a three storey glazed façade, flanked by ceramic clad wings which echo the historic surrounding while provided a new and dramatic face to the college boundary. The front of the college will be transformed from a car park to open lawn.

Delivering the design

AWW was appointed to support the initial funding applications for the project. Having successfully secured funding, we developed the scheme through planning and tender and we are currently working with the contactor, Willmott Dixon, to complete the IoT building. The refurbished Hele Building has been handed over for the start of the September 2020 term.


The scheme has been designed to meet Exeter City Council (ECC) BREEAM Excellent Policy. This applies to both the new building and the refurbished Hele Building. The building provides onsite power from an extensive PV array and takes heating from the site-wide district heating main.

User experience

The building will revolutionise the teaching of digital and data technologies by providing dedicated tech hubs, a showcase room, new lecture theatre and a striking reception to inspire and energise.


The scheme is designed around a centrally lit, communal atrium with coffee shop, while the entrance is remodelled to remove most of the cars and provide a wide communal lawn and social space.


The teaching spaces can be reconfigured to allow a wide variety of teaching spaces, while the entire building has been designed to allow wireless roaming access for IT equipment using ultra-fast broadband. Folding walls have been deployed between classrooms to allow larger spaces to be created as necessary.

The judges were highly impressed with this brand new and bold entrance for the city's nationally acclaimed further education establishment. Forming a key component of the comprehensive redevelopment of the site, the Centre was praised for its fabulous atrium and overall playful and invigorating design. The building houses a significant and prestigious digital learning centre complete with learning laboratories, state-of-the-art IT suites, interactive seminar spaces and access to cutting edge equipment. The design not only accommodates these first class and nationally important learning facilities but provides an inspiring educational environment for students that encourages collaboration and interaction. A truly landmark building, the scheme has managed to respect the student, institution and its surrounding built environment and sets a precedent for further exciting development."

The Michelmores Judging Panel 2021

Central atrium

As the vibrant heart of the project, the atrium provides light and ventilation to both the new IoT facility and refurbished Hele Building, whilst delivering a range of meeting and learning spaces to encourage collaboration and engagement.

A contemporary approach

Situated opposite the Grade I listed St David’s Church, the southern elevation of the IoT employs a contemporary twist on the historic fenestration with its recessed, deep set windows and distinctive piers.

Ground floor plan

Second floor plan

BIM Collaborative Model

The IoT is the culmination of five years’ work with Exeter College. We are delighted with this first phase of the Hele Road Campus Masterplan and the stunning contribution it makes both to the college site and to the urban fabric. Exeter College’s commitment to their city centre location demanded nothing less."

Charles Jordan, Project Director