Upgrade now in progress.

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’m Aidan – Chief Exec of Leeds University Union – and I’m thrilled to launch this brand new blog all about our exciting Union Upgrade. Check back here regularly for all the latest news about our fantastic new building project.

We kicked off our initial communications last month. It was great to hear feedback from our students and staff as we develop the plans for improving our spaces over the next two years. We’ve had excellent engagement with our three Student Advisory Boards – Accessibility, Activities and Sustainability. These exist to guide our staff on the design process.

Additionally, we’ve set up individual “end-user” groups to steer designs for individual spaces within project (e.g. the Foyer) which has naturally involved staff from a number of areas across the Union.

We now have an almost final design for Riley Smith Hall. Outstanding issues include how we try and get the new occupancy up to 500. The best layout for the Raven Theatre/Mine and Pulse is almost finalised too, maximising the opportunity to create individual spaces which can also link up and be much easier to navigate.

Construction work is still on track to begin in December 2015. We expect the first space to be addressed will be the Riley Smith, with the rest of the phasing dependent on input from the appointed contractor. We’ve had some really productive discussions with University colleagues about the spaces we could use for activities during construction, but also after the project when we may have less rehearsal space due to the increase in developed performance venues.

Construction work is still on track to begin in December 2015.

In the last couple of months I’ve also had a number of discussions with other Union Chief Execs who have undergone major building projects. Although somewhat different to LUU, I’ve visited Nottingham Trent and Manchester Met students’ unions to hear about their experiences of delivering brand new buildings for their students. These visits have highlighted how critical the communications to students is during the construction and during the launch period, which is precisely why we want to keep everyone as informed as possible!

This month, it gives me great pride to say we hosted the first national Student Summit on Sustainability. For me, it acts as a timely reminder that we need to continue to accommodate such wonderful events – it’s one of the key drivers for upgrading and refurbishing various aspects of our building.

Looking ahead, in the next few weeks we’ll start filling out more detail on some smaller scale work we may wish to do early, supplementing the overall project – more on that when it’s confirmed. We’ll also be finalising the design for the Foyer and developing the vision for the basement area, potentially incorporating spaces for student enterprises alongside established retail units.

That’s all for now – I’ll be back with another update next month. If you’d like to stay in the loop, simply watch this space!

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