Case Study: Hinxton Hall Conference Centre at Wellcome Genome Campus enhances accessibility

Hinxton Hall Conference Centre is located within the grounds of the Wellcome Genome Campus in Cambridge. Accessibility requirements are constantly being reviewed with a view to enhancing the experience of anyone using the Conference Centre spaces. 

The latest of these involved the installation of a Stannah CR inclined platform lift in the Francis Crick Auditorium. 

Accessibility upgrades to the auditorium were supported by the Facilities Management team at the Wellcome Sanger Institute who have a commitment to providing 'access for all’ in all of the spaces it supports.

Wates Facilities Management worked in collaboration with Hinxton Hall Conference Centre, the client on this project, and the Stannah team. 

The challenge
The Francis Crick Auditorium, which accommodates up to 290 people, had a step-free entrance. However, the main seating area at the front of the auditorium features a stepped aisle, meaning the stage was inaccessible for those with limited mobility. 

Prior to the Stannah solution being installed, speakers were not able to access the stage and were located in spaces to the rear of the auditorium. This location made it more challenging for them to contribute to conference events. 

It was not possible to accommodate a vertical lift shaft in the auditorium due to space restrictions, meaning Stannah had to devise a solution that utilised existing space on the stepped aisle.

The main design challenge was the need to minimise building works in the auditorium. These would have been outside the original budget expectations as well as extending the schedule which would have caused considerable disruption to a very busy auditorium and Conference Centre.

There was a requirement set out early in the project to retain access for all users to the main seating areas. 

Safe, efficient and quick installation was a priority to minimise disruption to the events programme held within the Conference Centre. 

The solution 
Stannah collaborated with Wates and the client in order to identify a solution that would address the multiple challenges on this project, and ultimately enhance accessibility without necessitating any disruptive structural alterations to the auditorium.

Following a detailed assessment, the team from Stannah guided the choice to a Stairiser CR inclined platform lift because it fully met the client’s brief and Wates expectations on this project.

Stannah Stairiser CR was considered the best way of providing access for all to the stage area at the front of the auditorium as it is specifically designed for use over stairs.

This approach also avoided structural changes, which may have resulted in widening of the stepped aisle leading to a loss of seating in the auditorium. The Stairiser CR’s slimline design meant that the rail had minimal outward projection from the wall and the platform folds away when not in use. 

Significantly, for this project, with the tight flooring footprint, Stannah Stairiser CR did not require additional space on the upper or lower landings, which retained unfettered access at these busy transit points.

Being designed for use on a curved rail meant the Stairiser CR could follow the slight elliptical curve of the upper level stairwell retaining wall and again minimise outward projection into the aisle. This innovative feature makes Stairiser CR equally well suited to stair installations with a single turn, multiple landings or spiral configuration.

The client chose a Stairiser CR model in light grey RAL7035 as standard. The platform is 800mm wide x 1000mm deep, allowing it to comfortably accommodate a wheelchair and user combined. It features a fully automatic, electrically controlled folding platform. Safety barrier arms and raised ramps ensure safety of the user during travel.

The result
This compact design of Stairiser CR inclined platform lift at the Francis Crick Auditorium now provides discreet and efficient access to the main stage of the auditorium.

It is a solution that is both elegant and functional. What was first envisaged as multiple competing requirements – access for all without making structural changes and maintaining existing user access, with an appealing design – has culminated in an outcome that satisfies all requirements. 

The addition of a Stannah Stairiser CR inclined platform lift at the Hinxton Hall Conference Centre has subsequently transformed accessibility within the Francis Crick Auditorium. This low-rise design had the additional benefit of eliminating the need for installations on the upper and lower landing, providing a compact and efficient solution.

For users, the Stannah accessible platform provides easy functionality including remote call stations. This feature allows users to conveniently summon the platform lift from various points in the auditorium, providing constant accessibility.  

Supporting a maximum load of 250kg, the Francis Crick Auditorium now provides speakers with safe and easy-to-use access to the stage.

Customer feedback
Katrina Robinson, Head of Programme Operations at Hinxton Hall Conference Centre: “The Stannah Stairiser CR inclined platform lift is an important addition to the auditorium and now provides speakers with limited mobility access to the main stage area. This creates a much more inclusive environment, and we appreciated the fact that Stannah identified a solution that avoided structural changes to the lecture space.”

Stephan Muraour, Project Manager at Wates Facilities Management said: “Throughout our collaboration with Stannah we were impressed with their professionalism and ability to identify a workable solution. Overall, the lift was easy to install without any structural work, whilst the design looks perfectly in keeping with other elements of the auditorium.”

For buildings that cannot accommodate a vertical lift, a Stannah Stairiser CR curved or Stannah SR straight rail platform lift is an ideal solution to enhance independence and safe access, whilst blending into existing designs and layouts.

Stannah’s range of wheelchair platform lifts is suitable for indoor and external use providing access to all areas of a building. 

Image credits: Hinxton Hall  - Genome Research Limited (GRL).