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MGAC Behind the Build: The National Manufacturing Institute Scotland


MGAC was founded on a simple promise: to take the most interesting, ambitious project ideas and make them a reality. Getting there is a matter of countless small steps, conversations, and carefully-calibrated decisions, taking place between day one and that long-awaited delivery day. These are the moments that make a project. With our Behind the Build series, we take a closer look at the roads that lead to a final product, delving into the ways our talented, passionate team makes a project possible. Today, we revisit our work with The National Manufacturing Institute Scotland.

Scotland is home to a rich and storied manufacturing history, from the reign of textiles in the 18th century through the Industrial Revolution and into the heavy industry heyday of the twentieth century. But in recent decades, its prominence has waned, with most recent official figures indicating the number of Scots working in the industry (178,000) is just a quarter of those making things just 60 years ago.

Enter The National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS), which is comprised of stakeholders who share a vision of making Scotland a global leader in diverse, sustainable manufacturing. Operated by the University of Strathclyde, NMIS is part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and was supported by the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Island Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland, Renfrewshire Council, South of Scotland Enterprise, and the Scottish Funding Council.

The pulsing heart of the new Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District Scotland (AMIDS), the flagship NMIS building serves as a vibrant hub of specialised technology, a joint skills academy, and an enterprising incubator of ideas.

Building the future of manufacturing is no small task, and at MGAC, we’re humbled to have played a part in the effort to bring this industry-led, international facility to life—a seminal project with the capacity to catalyse a sector’s revival in Scotland.

Photo Credit: David Barbour Photography


In 2019, we were engaged for cost management services for the project, joining a talented team that included Morrison Construction as the main contractor, HLM Architects, building services engineer Davie + McCulloch, and civil and structural engineer Waterman. We recognised right away that this ambitious £65M facility had much to account for. The building has a fully digitally connected workshop housing the NMIS Digital Factory and Lightweight Manufacturing Centre, the NMIS Manufacturing Skills Academy, and a publicly accessible collaboration hub.

Photo Credit: David Barbour Photography


An inspired vision fuelled this project: for the University of Strathclyde, it was an opportunity to build a beacon of sustainability that would light the way for a new generation of manufacturing across Scotland. Aspiration only becomes a reality with a strong project foundation and a fully aligned budget. With that in mind, we facilitated a series of critical, early conversations that would answer key questions, confirm the range of sustainability objectives, and ensure both the project team and budget alike were set up for success.

These discussions helped us support the very features often regarded as the facility’s standouts, including a rooftop studded with solar panels for electricity generation and a rainwater harvesting system. Other green features include EV charging stations for solar-powered cars and bikes, paths to and around the building to encourage cycling, and landscaping designed to support wildlife and biodiversity.

Still, projects are dynamic endeavours, and elements can—and typically will—change. As work got underway, heat source plans evolved from considering ground-source and air-source pumps to favouring tapping into a state-of-the-art low-carbon district heating system, one that the local council constructed underground and is capable of ultimately servicing all buildings in the business park site. While this pivot was a challenge, it was the most sustainable choice for the building, and we were energised to help enable the infrastructure while remaining within budget.

Another exciting challenge came in the form of seeking a BREEAM Outstanding accreditation. Considered one of the highest accolades for sustainability in UK construction, it calls for conducting a lifecycle analysis: looking not only at lifecycle cost, but also the environmental impact of every product and component of the building—of which there were many, with a scope as robust as this one. This was our team’s first project in Scotland that underwent the rigorous exercise. To pull it off, we consulted with a BREEAM advisor, swiftly navigating the ins and outs of the process—without impeding project progress.

Photo Credit: David Barbour Photography


Today, the flagship NMIS Netherton building is a landmark. Quite literally in a local sense, as travellers to Glasgow Airport see the vibrant heather-hued building as they approach from the air. But for all of Scotland, it is also a seminal project that will serve as the cornerstone of a movement to reinvigorate the country’s manufacturing economy, driving the future of the industry through innovation.

Just as the beloved plant for which NMIS is symbolically coloured is known for its free growth and abundant spread, the pioneering facility is already inspiring new projects and serving as a stimulus for prosperous, sustainable communities and a boon to the country’s economy. Setting the stage for so much more to come, it stands as a testament that this is just the beginning of an old sector’s bright new era.

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