Plans for £4m low-carbon fashion hub at Manchester Metropolitan University given planning green light

24 January 2024

Go ahead for construction of Robotics Living Lab, which will use more sustainable approaches for fashion manufacturing.

Plans for a new £4m Manchester fashion research hub using collaborative and soft robotics and agile tooling that will support local and sustainable production have been given the green light.

The Robotics Living Lab (RoLL) at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Manchester Fashion Institute (MFI), designed by Bennetts Associates, has been approved by Manchester City Council.

Fashion researchers, designers and manufacturers will be able to collaborate with RoLL – funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council – to make use of robotic technologies with a focus on creating high-value, low-volume fashion production in the UK.

The low-carbon, timber and straw pavilion will be constructed at MFI with work finishing in the summer. The design, a single-storey timber framed building, will provide an adaptable and functional workspace and exhibition and events space for the Robotics Living Lab to promote and showcase its work and research. The ‘Work in Progress’ pavilion forms the second phase of the Robotics Living Lab project.

Susan Postlethwaite, Professor of Fashion Technologies at MFI and Director of RoLL, said: “I am delighted to be working with Bennetts Associates to develop a low-carbon design for the work in progress space. This beautiful structure will help support us in showcasing and drawing attention to the important work of the lab.

“The lab will support new research in collaboration with small businesses to bring back fashion manufacturing to the UK, using new technologies to develop innovative, new, carbon neutral and sustainable fashion technologies.”

Living Lab

Sam Gills, architect at Bennetts Associates, added: “The pavilion meets Manchester Metropolitan University’s climate commitments entirely, embedding circularity and low-carbon design whilst also acting as a landmark space on its All Saints campus for fashion designers and manufacturers.”

An innovative project, the pavilion echoes Manchester Met’s ongoing commitment to sustainability, pushing low-carbon design, and is in line with the University’s Leadership in Sustainability Strategy, which commits it to being a beacon of sustainable development practice, working towards a zero-carbon future and putting sustainability at the heart of everything it does.

Just last month Manchester Met was ranked second in the People and Planet University League, meaning it’s now celebrating 11 years as a top three sustainable university.

The new RoLL building will be a low carbon design, incorporating biogenic and regenerative materials that capture carbon in their production or life cycle. The use of a UK Douglas fir timber frame, a native and regenerative material, will significantly reduce upfront carbon, even compared to typical glulam construction, while straw insulated wall panels will help capture carbon from the atmosphere in their production. The timber frame will form an expressive waffle soffit structure that will be left exposed, providing warmth and character to the internal space.

Living Lab

Following modern methods of construction, Bennetts Associates has enabled the building to maximise off-site manufacturing before being assembled on site. The build can be disassembled, allowing most of the materials and components to be recycled and reused in the future, adopting principles of the circular economy in line with the ambitions of MFI.


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