Belfast Telegraph

Queen's University wants to build new wing at £6.3m Titanic IT research facility

By Ryan McAleer

Queen's University has launched plans to significantly expand its £6.3m digital research facility in Belfast's Titanic Quarter.

A bid has been unveiled to add a four-storey extension to the front of the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT) building at Catalyst Inc, previously known as the Northern Ireland Science Park.

The existing three-storey complex is a research and development hub, focusing on cyber security, wireless innovation, data sciences and scalable computing.

Fourteen years since the 41,000sq ft project was completed, the university is seeking to add another 31,500sq ft as part of a five-year plan to expand the scope of its research and enable it to house more staff.

Set to cater for around 100 people, the extension being designed by US multinational engineering firm AECOM.

The company employs around 87,000 people in offices scattered worldwide, including one on Beechill Road in Belfast. It is headquartered in California. Its projects include One World Trade Center in New York, currently the tallest building in the Western hemisphere. The new project for Queen's University proposes a central glass tower in the new extension, which would be built on a car park at the site.

The project includes new shared meeting spaces, open plan office space, a 50-person teaching laboratory, a hybrid lab and server room.

The application, first reported by website Future Belfast, was submitted to planners in Belfast City Council earlier this month.

In a report supporting the application, AECOM states: "Whilst providing an important R&D facility, it is clear however that the existing ECIT building needs to expand in order to accommodate the institute's future plans. Over the next five years ECIT have ambitious growth figures for both academic and research staff and their current facility, which is approximately 14 years old, is not capable of accommodating the additional numbers."

AECOM's proposal seeks to limit the disruption in the current ECIT building to minor refurbishment, which includes relocating furniture, demolishing existing storage and partitioning a seminar room.

It said: "The external finish of the extension has been designed to reflect the dynamic and innovative nature of the institute and to provide a working environment that reinforces their international standing whilst also respecting the built heritage in the surrounding area."

Buildings close to the ECIT complex include White Star House and the Concourse development. The original ECIT development was designed by RPP Architects and carried out by Felix O'Hare and Co Ltd over 2003 and 2004. Last month, Queen's University announced a £500,000 investment in a new cyber security research lab at the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT), which will be based in the ECIT building.

Belfast Telegraph

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