THE Glasgow office of architects Sheppard Robson is keeping the orders flowing as it helps universities and colleges in Scotland revitalise their building stocks.

The practice recently completed work on the £14 million redevelopment of the Lord Hope and Curran Buildings at Strathclyde University, which forms part of its new Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (Hass).

The Hass project is one of several the architect has taken on to help educational bodies make the most of their assets, a trend that emerged at the start of the downturn because of the pressure on public finances.

James Dick, who leads Sheppard's Glasgow office, said that where once colleges or universities would have thrown up new buildings to meet their evolving needs, they were now re-imagining the spaces they had.

It is a process that may be given added impetus by Scottish Government plans to regionalise the further education system in Scotland and create 12 college regions with the Post-16 Education (Scotland) Bill.

The bill, at stage two of its progress through Parliament, is seen by Mr Dick as an opportunity for colleges to create new spaces that reflect modern teaching methods.

He said: "The college mergers are not dissimilar from an awful lot of what we have been doing in the further education sector, where all these universities and colleges are having to think very carefully about how they go forward, [and] make better use of what they have.

"The downturn in the market in the past five or six years has led all of them having to think of how they go forward.

"[It is a question of] how can they actually make what they have got in existing stock work for the new ways they teach.

"The universities have actually got assets.

"Their existing assets can be made to work for the curriculum they have going forward. They don't have to build new buildings."

Much of Sheppard's recent work reflects how teaching styles in higher and further education have changed over the past two decades, with the traditional lecture hall slowly giving way to spaces that encourage a "cross-fertilisation" of ideas and more "self-directed" learning.

The march of technology and the requirement for buildings to allow students and staff to have access to services such as wi-fi in public areas are informing designs, too, alongside a shift from cellular offices to open-plan environments for academic staff.

He said: "It's amazing [that] all the furniture now has to be intelligent furniture, where you can go in, sit with your laptop and actually plug in.

"It is almost the gradual evolution of technology that has transformed how any of us go about our lives."

In addition to its activities at Strathclyde, where it is also revamping the Livingston Tower, Sheppard is working for Glasgow University, relocating the Centre for Virus Research from in its west end campus to the Garscube complex.

Beyond Glasgow it built the Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine for Edinburgh University and is pitching for further work with the institution.

Sheppard Robson's strength in science and education, which can be traced back to the 1960s, has helped it endure the rigours of the recession.

While many architects have been hit by the downturn in construction and the slowing of other private sector work, its speciality has allowed it to broadly maintain employee numbers.

In Glasgow, staff stand at 12, compared with 15 two years ago, but the practice has not escaped the downward pressure on fees architects across the board have felt over the past five years. Mr Dick said: "You're still doing the same amount of work, if not more, than we did 10 years ago, but the feel levels sometimes don't make it worthwhile."

In its most recently available accounts at Companies House, Sheppard Robson reported profits after tax of £699,632, compared with £20,198 the year before.

Turnover for the year was £11.2m, up from £1.75m.