Jisc case studies wiki Case studies / Loughborough University - Open3
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Loughborough University - Open3

This Open Plan Case Study originates from the 2007 JISC-commissioned study into the Design and Management of Technology-Rich Learning and Teaching Spaces in Further and Higher Education in the UK by Les Watson, Hugh Anderson (Principal, haa design) and Katherine Strachan (Architect, haa design).


Case Study tags: learning spaces, open plan, loughborough university, east midlands, refurbishmenthigher education


Space: Open3

Opened: 2007

Respondent: Dr Graham Walton

Role: Service Development Manager, Loughborough University Library


Open3 is a dedicated area of the existing university library; it is managed by library services and functions as a group-working and social commons.


The library was completed in 1980 and is a 3-storey concrete framed building with recessed bands of glazing. Essentially it is square in plan with blockwork cores organised at 45° to the main grid containing services and stairs. The existing building has no specific issues with heating; lighting or ventilation and therefore the physical infrastructure of the library remained unaltered other than providing additional extract over the café servery.


Open3 originally only provided fixed PC workplaces. Wireless was introduced to the space 6 months after opening and additional perimeter dado power supply is being installed over Summer 2007 due to the increase in laptop usage. The university has been tracking laptop use and despite its increase there is still a continuing requirement for fixed PCs, particularly favoured by students are those with the provision of adjacent layout space.

Originally the building was laid out as a traditional library with silent study areas only, however behaviour and noise were becoming issues because students were using the larger format tables for group working. Library services came to realise that with the increase in student involvement on collaborative projects, the zoning of different types of study space would be required in order to manage the noise issue. Initially group work was confined to zones within each floor this however created a disturbance to others. Open3 came into being on deciding to bring all group working into level 3, the main entrance level, providing workplaces for 200 users and reclaiming the adjacent under-utilised teaching spaces to provide enclosed group working spaces. The remaining 2 floors still operate as silent study areas for individual work.


Very little of the furniture used in Open3 was purchased new; it was mainly redeployed from elsewhere therefore the budget for creating Open3 was a minimal £5k. Separate funding was received for bringing in a franchise to operate a café adjacent to the library entrance. Initially the café was accessed separately from the outside but, with the creation of Open3, it has been fully combined into the group working area, providing a blended version of a social commons.

The policy of permitting drinking and eating, of hot and cold food, throughout the café and Open3 has proved to be conducive to reinforcing the no food and drink rule in the levels 1 & 2 and subsequently the need for monitoring has been reduced. The success of the social commons has led to plans to introduce additional soft seating areas over Summer 2007.


Access to the building isn't normally 24/7 although there have been 2 trial periods of 4 and 7 weeks this year. These proved extremely successful producing an increase in footfall of 20,000 with no greater increase in management issues other than in relation to cleaning. The impact that Open3 would have on the scale of the cleaning task was relatively unforeseen at the outset. Now that it has been identified an increased budget has been allocated and the task of cleaning is being managed according to the requirements of the intensive space usage that such a space implies.


There is a policy of no signage in Open3; this has resulted in an area that is more or less self-policing and requiring minimal management. Open3 is a good example of a very low cost venture bringing a high return in terms of usage and positive feedback from users.