Franklin Ellis Project Profile: Chris Dixon, Derby Innovation Centre

September 18th, 2014

Chris Dixon, Associate Architect, Derby Innovation Centre

He can deliver you a distinctive design which marries sustainability with cost effectiveness. He has a passion for deploying the latest technology. And he can even tell you how to ask for an angle grinder in German.

Meet Chris Dixon, an Associate Architect with Franklin Ellis who is currently working on one of the firm’s flagship projects – the brand new Derby Innovation Centre, a hi-tech landmark that will form the centrepiece of the Infinity Park development in the city and become home to the next generation of advanced engineering businesses.

“It’s a great project to be involved with,” says Chris. “I get a sense of fulfilment out of all the projects I work on but being a part of something which is so prominent and so significant for the regional economy is pretty special. The ground works begin shortly and I’m looking forward to seeing the structure take shape.”

Chris’s career took shape after studies at Leeds and then Nottingham universities. It also included a spell working on building sites in Berlin, which is where he learned the phrase “Hol mal die Flex!” (fetch the angle grinder).

Fortunately for Franklin Ellis, the Berlin building boom tailed off in the early 2000’s and Chris returned to the UK.

His work for FEA ranges from a variety of social housing projects to the polar opposite – the huge Trent Park development of upmarket apartments alongside the River Trent at Colwick, a landmark in riverside living that has gone on to win awards.

Chris is also a self-confessed techie, and in an era when the virtual world of Building Information Modelling (or BIM for short) is playing an increasing part in the design and development process his skills have become a linchpin of the Franklin Ellis operation.

BIM enables architects, engineers and developers to draw up and bring together the different elements of a building on screen in three dimensions. They can see how a structure comes together all the way from a steel frame to its mechanical and electrical services and its shell and skin, flagging up and designing out potential clashes between the different layers as they go along.

BIM is transforming the design and development process, says Chris: “There has been a big focus on the software behind BIM but people are beginning to realise that it is changing the way the industry works, all the way from the information it generates to the way relationships work.

“The model becomes host to data from dozens of organisations and begins to be a platform for communication between the parties too. In terms of the industry understanding the scale of BIM’s potential it is still early days but you can see the efficiencies emerging.”

Government is clearly hoping to harness the potential of a data-rich process by dictating that BIM must be used on centrally funded projects by 2016.

Chris observes: “I can understand why they want to go down this path, and there’s no question that those practices that haven’t already embedded BIM in what they do are going to be playing catch-up. But it’s an approach that requires a lot of investment and that has to be recouped somewhere.”

Through people like Chris and its own investments in technology, Franklin Ellis is already a long way down the BIM path.

“We have bought into the whole concept and so have many of the people we collaborate with because it can be a driver for efficiency,” says Chris. “Everybody at Franklin Elis knows I like pushing the boundaries in terms of technology. But this also helps us deliver great results.”


Cloud render of revit model

Sectional extract of coordinated revit model

Sectional extract of coordinated revit model

Wind tunnel analysis of revit model

Wind tunnel analysis of revit model


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