Portland Hill Cascade Fountains

The University of Nottingham

University Education, Research & Development

Project Scope:
Development, Design & Build Amphitheatre Animated Cascade & Fountains

Services Provided:
Design concept, fountain engineering & animation, lighting, water treatment including chemical dosing, filtration.

Contract Value (£):




The challenge of this project was the scale of water being used on a hillside landscape, the significant number of different complex key designs incorporated into the water features, which were not available on the open market and were developed and created by Tills Innovations Ltd. Bringing all these elements together a sophisticated bespoke control system had to monitor, animate, alarm and operate the fountains and cascades.


Through the process of designing the solution, more challenges were raised. Having fountains animated to run up and down the hillside brought hydraulic technicalities, meaning each cascade had to be controlled individually by pumps with control system software compensating for the animation head pressures.

Through manufacturing a full scale cascade, it was apparent that fountain splash of the podiums was too excessive and through more development it was decided that aerated fountains would be required to soften the water as it hit the stone. This in turn created another challenge of how to introduce air into fountain nozzles which had to be below deck level, for the drying out feature. Through further bespoke designs & testing, special assemblies were manufactured to overcome this. In addition, the fountains had bespoke lights to meet the requirements of the nozzles assemblies, all on calendar timing.

A wind anemometer and frost sensor was fitted to the building and taken into the PLC for monitoring and control of fountain heights. For enhanced protection and redundancy, dry run switches to protect pumps and redundancy switching for water top up.

Remote telemetry access enabled our offices to take full control of the control panel, as if we were on site, such as filtration pressures, pump temperatures, chemical dosing levels, wind speed, animation control, fountain and lighting schedules.

To simplify operator duties, a front screen provides a simple overview of the system operation giving servicing requirements and alarms.


The Portland Building is one of the most important parts of the university and it was critical that the hills development embraced this. The way in which Tills Innovations were able to add water to the amphitheater creating movement, interest and sound with the animation up and down the hillside embellished this design. The end result raising the profile of the university for social relaxation to prestigious graduations and ceremonies.

With remote telemetry access, extra equipment protection and redundancy makes operator duties easier to manage, lowering H&S risks, reducing any water feature down time, call outs and running costs.

Clients include

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