Summary: The expansion, renovation, and improvement of Farset Labs is nearly finished, with the project on schedule and anticipated to only slip by a few days, which will not materially affect our timetable. A range of purpose-built features for the Event Space, workshop, and general accessibility have been included. Fundraising to further our charitable aims has started and you can find out how to contact us about this at the end of the post.
How time flies – we’re nearing the end of our eight week build schedule on the Farset Labs renovation and the results are looking fantastic so far. Our Victorian schoolhouse, which has been educating Belfast since 1883, is nearly ready to open its doors again. While the timetable has slipped by a few days, we’re still on target to be back in by early October.
We’re going to take this opportunity to share a few select photos from the project so far, starting right back at the beginning… (Or you can skip right to the current progress.)
The story so far…
After our big push to vacate the building, the construction firm wasted no time in starting demolition, which reduced Unit 1 to a rather sorry state.
However, it wasn’t long before the mess was cleared up and Unit 1 was a blank canvas again (more or less).
The bulk of the structural work was confined to the eastern end of the building, where a lift shaft was formed and two pre-existing openings were sealed up, with a new, wider opening made.
Demolition wasn’t confined to downstairs, although a previous contractor had torn down most of the internal studs upstairs several months previously in preparation for the project – the below images were actually taken as part of a Farset survey in early March 2019.
Some say this was briefly the premier toilet in Weavers Court – excellent south facing aspect, glorious afternoon light, fine views over a converted Victorian mill, wonderful sense of spaciousness…
Anyway, back to the summertime work: due to the floor settling unevenly at the western end over the last century and a half, the joiners moved in to rectify the problem.
The major stud walls upstairs were erected pretty early in the project.
You can see the marks for widening the doorway seen in the previous photo. We’re looking east, with the kitchenette through to the left and the meeting room through to the right.
The position of the lift shaft (seen here on the left with copious quantities of two-by-four and marine ply) and the existing stairwell (coming up through the purple door on the right) meant the lobby area was a peculiar shape, which we decided to keep open and make into the new lounge area. This will be a chill-out space, a social space, or simply a place to take a phone call or lunch.
The new first floor meeting room under construction, before the studs on the left of the image were reinforced for a wall-mounted display. Note also the cabling for power and HDMI to the floor box.
Back downstairs, we can see the little stud wall that was put in to provide power and support to the central workbench in the workshop. Originally, we had envisaged the power simply coming down the column, but solid iron is, of course, not the best material to work on for that purpose, so a heavily reinforced (almost all two-by-fours and ply) stud was built instead.
At the other end of the building, I returned from a trip away to a conference to find that the upstairs kitchenette and lift had seemingly appeared out of nowhere – appearances were deceiving, though, since most of the internals of the lift were still being worked on. Accessibility has been a very important consideration during this renovation, and a number of features have gone or are going into the building in order to help our users.
These accessibility features include, but are not limited to: twin fire refuge points with two-way firefighter’s comms, installing distress call points in both disabled toilets, a new disabled toilet on the first floor, built to be compliant with the latest regulations, a high-contrast colour scheme throughout the Labs (high LRV differentials) to aid the navigation of visually impaired users, braille signage and wayfinding*, induction loops in the Event Space and meeting room*, drop-level workbenches in the workshop for wheelchair access to an electronics workstation, spaces such as the lounge area for users to decompress and avoid sensory overload, dual electric blinds for dimming rooms to different levels*, high CRI and lower colour temperature LED lighting to avoid fatigue and migraines from fluorescents/CFLs, hold-open fire doors to allow the option of door-free entry from street to the Event Space when an event is starting, and levelling and refitting nearly 4,000 sq ft of flooring, including the use of low-rolling resistance, healthcare-grade vinyl in the ground floor.
Finally, these most up-to-date images were all taken on one recent evening and should give an idea of the progress:
We start in the team room on the first floor, at the very western end of the building (we’re standing in the north-western corner) – the western fire escape is to the left. Unfortunately, though we fought for it, the beautiful ceiling is being covered up again by a new suspended ceiling. Perhaps something to return to in a future project.
View of the same room from the opposite corner. This room will be our area for small teams, whether hobbyist or professional. Members can rent several desks and work together on projects, enjoying a higher degree of privacy and an included small meeting pod* (sited in the alcove visible here).
Moving into the next room, we can see the desk space, with eight large windows providing some really beautiful natural light throughout the day. The next image is the same view, but moved right slightly, standing in the door of the team room, and the final image is from the opposite end, looking west towards the doorway the previous image was taken in. There will be circa twenty desks in here, arranged with comfortable room all around, and also a couple of telephone booths*, print services, and storage.
Facing south, we find ourselves in the meeting room, now with the plasterboard on, which will have a large monitor for presentations, teleconferencing kit for collaboration*, and space for up to seven people to meet privately…
…and facing north, across the corridor, we can see the kitchenette, just before the piping for the boiler was boxed in.
Going through the door at the end of the short corridor, in the lounge area, we can also glimpse the lift cabin being worked on at that moment in time. Through the doorway on the left is the toilets, cleaning cupboard, and electrical services for the floor.
The furthest wall that you can see, to the left of the window, will have shelving for our library of texts, classic gaming collection, magazines, and a large screen. The shelving will continue around into the alcove to the left (out of view) and there is hope a fish tank will also be included here, as a donation of materials and time from a member with previous experience.
Moving the camera round the corner to the right, with the lift to our back left, we get a better look at that alcove and the door to the main stairwell.
Standing on the landing, we can see the entrances to both floors.
Coming down the stairs, we’re now in the new front doorway, which has become the entrance for both units. We hope to have mail-handling facilities on the left wall and ahead, in what will soon be behind a door, you can see part of the Tibus gear which provides our awesome internet connectivity.
Walking past the ground floor lift lobby and into what was the old co-working space, the camera finds itself in the south western corner, where the networking cabinet used to sit. The alcove to right and the wall on the other side of the entrance hallway will both have lockers* for member storage installed in them. It is our current intention to fabricate some desk-level benches in the middle of the room and at the windows, offering comfortable and generous hotdesking space with power sockets and proper seating. Note the much higher plastered ceiling throughout the ground floor, exposing the beautiful ironwork and central wooden beam, which gives the whole space a very light and airy feel.
We’ve considerably widened our Event Space door, both for general people flow and for improved accessibility. Turning left through it, we can see the new Event Space, which has been enlarged by ~40%, giving considerably more usable space and flexibility than that figure would suggest. This will be kitted out with brand new tables with a non-folding tabletop, and brand new durable moulded chairs with cushions. Both the tables and chairs have been specified to include high-capacity trolley storage and the new store (alcove on the right of the image, waiting for double doors to be fitted) will hold the entire table and chair stock, allowing the Event Space to be completely empty, enhancing its capability as a multi-use space, particularly in light of plans to also integrate room-scale VR facilities into it*. Retractable drop-down power sockets for desk groups will be installed* to eliminate trailing cables and speed up setup time. We also have exciting plans* for best-in class AV to allow our members and external users, such as meet-up groups, access to a unique, highly specified facility.
Moving to the other side of the Event Space, we can see that it now has own-door access from the car park, allowing event organisers to welcome guests directly into the space in good weather. (Industrial clean-off carpet will be fitted at this and other entrances to prevent ingress of water/dirt.) The window to the workshop sits just beside it, allowing a connection between the two core rooms of the hackerspace.
The workshop is completely new, with sealed lighting fixtures, a large cored external hole for air extraction, emergency cut-off panic switches on sockets, a dedicated 20A supply for a down-draught vented 1,200°C+ kiln*, the same for a 4’ x 2’ CNC router with fourth axis*, space for a large (~1000mm x 600mm) laser cutter with dual (CO2 and MOPA fibre) diodes*, a Formlabs Form 3 3D Printer with wash and cure*, a large industrial sink with waste filtration (allowing, for example, ceramics work), FDM 3D printers, a pedestal drill, a smaller CNC mill (Nomad 883 Pro)*, smaller laser cutter (Glowforge Pro)*, desktop vacuum former*, screen printer*, ultrasonic cleaner*, high quality hand tools, an industrial sewing machine & overlocker*, computerised embroidery machine*, tailor’s form*, steam iron*, and two electronics workstations, with a reflow oven*, high-end Oscilloscopes*, bench top PSUs*, bench top multimeters*, microscopy*, PCB shear*, Weller solder/desolder stations*, Weller hot-air rework station*, and more. Whew!
Finally, moving to the right, we get a view of the dedicated fire escape/separate entrance for the workshop, the new boiler room access door, and the aforementioned cored hole for extraction services. It’s worth mentioning that the philosophy for the workshop is to allow the creation of objects anywhere up to about a metre cubed, whether as prototypes, art, or whatever our members can imagine. We have placed a heavy emphasis on precision engineering and end-to-end electronics fabrication.
That completes the tour of the work-in-progress – which I hope you’ve found helpful – and brings us to those little asterisks…
* Funding permitting – we’re currently fundraising for capital expenditure that will support us in achieving our charitable aims and increase the impact of the outcomes we already provide as a volunteer-led and -run organisation. If you’d like to hear more or discuss how you could help us provide STEAM outreach and education for children, young people, and adults, as well as a community environment for hobbyists, professionals, and everyone in between, from arts to engineering, we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or, if you’d prefer to speak directly with me, feel free to give me a shout at email@example.com and we can have a chat.
This is the largest project the charity has ever undertaken, but we’re building on eight years of experience, developing robust governance, and a wealth of knowledge from our volunteer teams; we’d love to have great partners on the next eight years of our journey!
Any questions? Join our Slack and ask away. Thanks for taking the time to read this, and see you soon in the new and improved Farset Labs.
Photography by David Kane (earlier progress) & Alan Ferguson (current progress). Editing by David Kane.
It’s been over seven years since Northern Ireland’s hackerspace opened its doors to the artists, engineers, and makers of Belfast. Farset Labs has spent that time delivering STEAM education, providing a space and tools for the tech and creative scene, and being a focal point for events and meetups. We’ve had a blast, and grown immensely, both as an organisation and – more importantly – as a community.
Many will have noticed that, over the past couple of years, it’s been getting rather cosy in Unit 1, our home in Weavers Court Business Park. There’s just not quite enough room for everyone, the event space is regularly used for overflow from the co-working space, and the workshop is, well, regularly used for overflow from the event space!
We do, however, have some news to share (and some awkward weeks ahead of us).
In the middle of November last year, we got word from our landlord that the other tenants in building, who occupied the first floor, were departing and we were asked if we wanted to take it on. This scenario had been long discussed within the Farset Labs team, but now we had first refusal on occupying the entire building.
While the thought of more than doubling our floorspace was a daunting one, we sharpened our pencils and kicked off the due diligence, and have been working with the team at Weavers Court for the last eight months to bring this dream to reality.
After many, many delays, complications, surveyors, consultations, and long weekends of planning, shuffling, and boxing, we’ve set in motion both the biggest and riskiest manoeuvre that the charity has attempted yet.
The next few months are going to see major changes happening at your community hackerspace, as we begin a programme of renovations and expansion that will stand us in good stead for the next eight years and beyond. Our current location, Unit 1, will be shut to members in the coming weeks and completely emptied by Friday 19th July, while our new temporary premises, Unit 5E, will be available for use from the week beginning Monday 1st July.
We hope to take possession of Unit 1 again in late September and, following a period of internal fit out, have it fully openagain in Early October. We know that this will cause disruption to many of the usual activities that take place in Farset Labs, but we are seeking to minimise the impact where possible, and Farset Labs will remain open throughout, though in a substantially smaller space
We’re very excited to share the new space with the community and if you’d like to know more about what is planned, please read on.
The renovation and expansion of the hackerspace is a large project that involves Farset Labs more than doubling its floor space by taking possession of the unit above us, making us the sole tenants of our beloved old Victorian schoolhouse, just five minutes from Great Victoria Street and on the doorstep of Weavers Cross, the new transport hub.
This gives us the opportunity to do the following:
Provide up to 40 additional dedicated desk spaces upstairs in a bright and airy environment
Expand our workshop, adding a new fire exit and access control
Increase the size of our flexible event space and improve AV facilities
Create a new multipurpose space suited for art projects, teams, startups etc
Move the lounge upstairs and create a new dedicated meeting room
Add call booths*, a second kitchenette, and additional toilets upstairs
Provide lift access to the new floor so everyone can use it
Finally, we will now have a single, unified entrance hallway for both floors
There are many other small tweaks and additions, too numerous to list here, from new bench tops in the ground floor kitchenette, to improved sound proofing between floors, and furniture storage for the event space.
This improved canvas has also prompted us to reevaluate the equipment and facilities in the space. Since we’ll be redistributing member storage spaces from the workshop to across the building, we can now access-control the workshop and certain tools within it. This means training will be required to enter it, and further training will be required to energise and use certain tools, which will enable us to accommodate more advanced equipment and processes than we’ve been able to support so far.
We have identified the following as priorities and will be seeking further input from the wider community soon on shaping this list:
New workshop equipment:
Small laser cutter*
Small vacuum former
Small CNC router*
Benchtop small lathe*
FDM and SLA/DLP/LCD 3D Printers*
Benchtop power supplies*
PCB stereo microscope
Dust and fume extraction
Heavy duty sewing machine
Hot wire cutter*
Updated ultra-bright projection*
1.2kW RMS surround sound system
Event recording/streaming equipment*
New lighting and backdrop options
New information displays
Access control throughout
Systems for smart management of heating, lighting etc in the space
New plants and eco friendly features
Fixtures for displaying art and member projects
This list is not exhaustive and is dependent on reaching our target level of funding (items highlighted by an asterisk* indicate inclusion in our fundraising drive).
Accessibility was a key consideration in this expansion, and despite many difficulties with providing it in the structure of the old building, a lift will be installed to allow wheelchair/reduced mobility access to all spaces. In addition, key doors are being replaced and widened, improving flow throughout the space for all users. Certain doors, where possible, will also be electromagnetically held to eliminate the need to open them.
The new spaces have been designed to make it as easy as possible for members with accessibility needs to access them, with Farset Labs providing high contrast surfaces, induction loops, and Braille signage where possible. We remain firm in our commitment that people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds should be able to enjoy our space, and we are doing our best to provide this within our means.
I have stuff in Farset, what’s gonna happen to it? All member storage boxes will still be available in our new, temporary location, Unit 5E and will be moved over with the rest of the equipment and furniture. If your stuff isn’t in a box, you can either collect it or let us know what you would like done with it via email or Slack.
What’s going to happen to [insert event or programme here]? We’re going to try our best to keep “Minimum Viable Farset” going in the time being, but that’s going to be mostly co-working/hot-desking, as we’re moving from 2000 sq. ft over multiple rooms, to circa 600 sq. ft over a single room. We’ve shut down the CoderDojo for summer, as well as a few other regular events, and we won’t be taking most new event bookings for the period that we’re in our temporary location. However, these will all be coming back after the move!
Who’s paying for all this? The reason for the major renovation is related to the building (which hasn’t been fully renovated in about thirty years), rather than our tenancy, so the work being done to the fabric of the building is within the purview of the landlord (although they’ve kindly integrated some of our ideas and requests into the building plans). As for all the office furnishings, decoration, equipment, etc, we’ll be using core funds for that from members dues, so it’s still “our” space. However, we want to do this right, so we’ll be raising funds to make the transition as smooth as possible, and leave us with the best space we can manage.
What’s the network like in 5E? We’ve worked with our good friends at Tibus to make sure it’s almost as awesome as the connection in Unit 1. A couple of years ago, we invested in some additional FTTC equipment as part of the Super Connected Communities programme and we won’t be able to migrate that over with us to our temporary location, so it’s not exactly the same, but it’s still a very solid and performant connection.
How is access going to work in Unit 5E? We will be fitting a mechanical code lock this week and distributing the sequence to members, so access will be largely the same as in Unit 1 once it is set up.
How is this expansion going to effect membership dues? We hope it won’t directly, however, we haven’t changed membership dues in over five years, so as part of the “settling in” period, we’ll be consulting with the membership on the charity’s cashflows and revenue calculations, so that we can make decisions about the long term sustainability of the community together.
One of the major motivations for the expansion is to increase the number of hackers, makers, and breakers that we can accommodate, and this increase in membership will offset the increased rent/electricity/heating costs so that Farset Labs can continue to be core-funded by the community
Please direct any enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org or to @managers on the Farset Labs Slack and we will be happy to answer them. We have been trying to keep members updated through our Town Hall meetings and external event organisers updated via email, but if you have any specific concerns, please get in touch.
This project to enhance the hackerspace is in association with our landlords, Weavers Court Business Park, and we have received additional support from our awesome fibre internet sponsors, Tibus, for which we are ever grateful. We have a fundraising strategy constructed and we are hoping to elicit additional support from the tech and creative community in Northern Ireland – if you’d like to hear more about this, please email email@example.com.
A few notes on Farset Labs:
Farset Labs is a hackerspace, non-profit company, and registered charity based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It opened its doors in 2012 to respond to a demonstrated need for an independent, charitable community of creatives and technology innovators. Farset Labs provides this community with an open space and shared resources to experiment, explore, and grow themselves, their projects, and relationships locally and globally. Farset Labs stands as a valued part of the technology, entrepreneurship, and STEAM outreach communities, conducting collaborations with academia, government, and the private sector across Northern Ireland. It is entirely volunteer-run, member-funded, and has an open governance model, with no salaries or profit-making – all funds generated are reinvested in the charity and the community.
Experience the best Northern
Ireland has to offer from a Year in Games and meet the hardworking heroes
behind the scenes that made it happen.
The NI Game Awards is hosted at Black
Box on Hill Street and organised by committed, enthusiastic members of the NI
tech and design community. The awards party is a fully catered event with
complementary prosecco and a wide variety of locally-made games and virtual
reality to experience. Some of the most anticipated games to come out of
Northern Ireland this year are being demoed. The categories include NI Game of the Year, NI Most
Anticipated Game, NI Game Studio of the Year, NI Rising Star, NI Community Award.
The awards party gives game developers, enthusiasts and
students the chance to network and socialise while celebrating the amazing
local talent of the NI game developer industry. Developers will have the chance to let people demo their
creations and get advice from some of the most experienced and talented
developers in Northern Ireland. Anyone is welcome – whether they’re interested
in creating games, or simply getting their name out there in the community. All
that is needed is a desire to
hang out and chat with other developers.
Brought to you by NI Game Dev Network, with
support from NI Screen and Farset
Dress Code, though not strictly enforced, we think such an event would be a great opportunity for us to class it up a bit and dress in black-tie. So, dig out your finest suit or dress and let’s feel fancy for the night. Monocles optional.
Mentors include Unity 3D and Unreal experts, multi-award-winning developers, and multi-talented artists. This will provide you with a brilliant opportunity to get some insider tips on improving your graphics and code, getting funding and making a profit, and even on how to get your game published.
Do you want to bring your GAME DEMO? That’s awesome, but please check with us in advance so we can talk about space and time. Send the organisers an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or ask via the Facebook group and someone will get back to you as soon as they can.
As the venue will be serving alcohol, you must be over 18 by the date of the event for us to be in accordance with the licensing laws. We are really sorry if this means you won’t be able to join us this time, but please do follow us to keep up to date with other events in the future.
If you’re travelling by BUS Customs House Square, next to Mc Hugh’s is the closest bus stop, which includes a Glider stop and is a 4 minute walk from the venue.
If you’re travelling by TRAIN, Lanyon Place (Central Station) is the closest station to the venue and is a 16 minute walk, so leave plenty of time to catch the last train home.
If you’re travelling by CAR, Dunbar Street and Exchange Street are the closest car parks, just 4 minutes away.
As per our standard, any profit or remaining finances will go to the NI Game Dev Network community, passing forward to future events and to supporting the NI game community.
For any more information or if you have any questions about attending/demoing at the event, please contact email@example.com
Farset Dojo is changing; we’re skipping December and moving from Eventbrite to Zen; restarting on the 8th of February, running every fortnight.
Hello followers and supporters of Farset Dojo and awesome Guardians of the Ninjas.
We had planned to run our next event on Friday the 7th of December but have decided to postpone the Dojos until after the New Year! This is to allow the champions and mentors (and the ninjas!) to enjoy the holiday season with their families and friends. We’re also moving from EventBrite to Zen (the global Coder Dojo website).
Zen has fantastic resources available to ninjas and mentors, and it gives us a nice change when it comes to registering who will be attending.
Sign up to the new and shiny Farset Dojo here if you want to attend any future events. We’ll be back to running every fortnight from Friday the 8th of February at 7pm!