Portland Hill Cascade Fountains

Portland Hill Cascade Fountains


The University of Nottingham

Project Location:

University of Nottingham - Portland Hill


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 (£):





Nottingham University is in the top 100 universities worldwide, with over 45,000 students. The Portland Building is big, its busy and an important building that forms the students union.
As part of Nottingham’s Universities extensive redevelopment programme, Portland Hill has been landscaped to incorporate an impressive amphitheatre with fountains, cascades and pools.

Portland Hill as the name suggests is a large slope that runs up from the Portland Building on the main campus. The landscape development will follow work within the building to create an improved social area to meet friends for a coffee, study or watch events on the large TV Screen

The Brief

Water is a significant part of the hillside development, enhancing the design to a new level, setting a very high standard for the student union. The water effects had to be split into two. A pool at the top of the hill required fountains with different heights, water density and lighting, all to be animated.

Six cascades with fountains had to run up the hillside structured within the amphitheatre. Each of the six cascades having three illuminated fountains with tiered water falls. Each of the cascade fountains being animated and synchronized with the top pool fountains.

As part of the brief the fountains on the cascade had to be turned off remotely, with the design such that the podiums would dry out, holding no water and offering additional seating for the multiscreen TV at the bottom of the amphitheatre for film nights and student graduations and ceremonies.

A control system had to operate the animation, water treatment, filtration and peripheral services with operator interface display showing alarm conditions. With the complexity of this water feature, the operator wanted Tills Innovations to have external control from its offices, monitoring and adjusting the control system as required.

All the fountains were to lower in windy conditions and turn off in freezing conditions.

The end result to be an amazing dynamic water display on many levels, integrated within a classic amphitheatre rising up the hillside.

The Challenge

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.

The Solution

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 on 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 & lighting schedules.

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

The Benefits

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 amphitheatre creating movement, interest & 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.

Office: 01284 787 479

Mike Tillett: 07900 432 776

Steve Tillett: 07769 680 757

Copyright © Water Feature Specialist 2014

Design and Development by Designaweb