When Weston College threw open the doors of its new Law and Professional Services Academy in Weston-super-Mare last September, it may have achieved an educational first. The college’s sensitive redevelopment of the iconic Winter Gardens complex has simultaneously expanded the town’s further and higher education sector while securing the future of a landmark building.
The transformation of the Winter Gardens came about when it was formerly transferred from North Somerset Council to Weston College in 2016. The year-long, £15m project involved Midas Construction redeveloping and modernising the little-used 1980s conference facilities at the Winter Gardens to create Weston College’s brand-new academy. Additional learning space has been created for University Centre Weston in a newly-built two-storey extension.
At the same time, the original 1920s seafront building has been sympathetically restored by the college to its former glory for community use. A new reception area has been created, the kitchens have been refitted and a suite of function and meeting spaces have been developed. Two new restaurants have opened, and the famous ballroom is hosting events once more, to a new generation of visitors.
Reliably warm and comfortable
A key part of the complex project was the refurbishment of the heating system, which involved installing energy-saving Remeha condensing boilers to deliver reliable, energy-efficient heating throughout the buildings.
Heating is a critical service in all buildings – after all, if the heating fails, the building risks closure. At the same time, an efficient heating system avoids unnecessary energy waste and greenhouse gas emissions as well as keeping running costs down. And for educational establishments like Weston College, a reliable, well-controlled heating system is arguably particularly important as it helps create the optimum learning environment for students and staff.
Ensuring consistent-temperature heating was equally essential at the Winter Gardens to help protect the listed fabric of the historic pavilion and ballroom. High quality and longevity were, therefore, major considerations for the college when selecting the heating products.
To meet all these requirements, consulting engineer Jones King in Bristol recommended installing three high-efficiency Remeha Gas 310 Eco Pro condensing boilers. The boilers, which provide space heating throughout the site and feed seven air handling units, were specified due to the high performance and quality of the products and brand.
“The compact dimensions of the Remeha boilers also meant that they fitted well within the plant room design,” commented Mark Salisbury, Senior Mechanical Engineer at Jones King.
Ease of installation was a further influencing factor. The Remeha boilers are designed for simpler installation with integral wheels for easy manoeuvrability into and around the plant room.
For Greg Spencer, Mechanical Contract Engineer at Priddy Engineering Services, installing the boilers was the easiest element of this intricate renovation programme.
“As the Remeha boilers are compact and lightweight, wheeling them in and positioning them was easy. They can also be connected directly to the building management system, making connection to the existing BMS straightforward. We then added weather compensation controls to optimise boiler operation and maximise system efficiencies throughout the site. All in all, a seamless job!”.
The high efficiencies and low NOx emissions of the Remeha boilers pleased Kevin Curtis, Project Manager at Midas Construction, as did the attention to whole-life operation and reduced noise levels. “The Remeha boilers boast a digital diagnostic display and remote signalling options which will enable easy operation and maintenance,” explained Kevin. “Best of all, they are extremely quiet, which means improved comfort for all who teach and learn in the Winter Gardens, with little to no noise interruption.”
Warm and comfortable
Fast forward to spring 2018 and Weston College’s new student cohort has been at the Winter Gardens site for two full terms. Just how warm and comfortable have the new college buildings been for its staff and students during one of the coldest winters experienced in recent years? “The boilers are proving super-efficient,” said Lynda Neate, Weston College’s Facilities Manager. “We’re very pleased with how they are running. Even in the recent cold spell we experienced no problems whatsoever – so we have happy staff and happy students!”.
The transformation of the Winter Gardens has been a success on every level, as Dr Paul Phillips, the college’s Principal and Chief Executive, explained: “Weston has undergone huge investment lately, and the college’s continued investment is further contributing to the regeneration of the town and surrounding areas, not just by providing outstanding training for the local workforce, but also through projects such as the Winter Gardens development, which offers a place open and available for public use.”
Midas Executive Director, Derek Quinn, hopes the remodelled building will be enjoyed by many future generations. He said: “I am immensely proud of the work carried out by Midas Construction to provide a modern and exciting new academy while sympathetically renovating the pavilion and ballroom and external features.
“This is a much-loved space that the community will be able to continue to use and enjoy for years to come.”
State-of-the-art facilities and advanced heating technology; a first-class college like Weston deserves nothing less.
90 years of history:
The Winter Gardens first opened its doors over 90 years ago on 14th July 1927. So popular was the venue that in its heyday, famous stars like David Bowie and Pink Floyd performed to packed audiences in its Art Deco Ballroom.
In recent years, budget constraints caused the scale and frequency of public events to dwindle until, by 2014, more than half of the large events at the pavilion were academic celebrations and conferences organised by Weston College.
Weston College is an Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ college of further and higher education, providing education and vocational training to nearly 30,000 learners across the country – and it had plans for expansion.
To protect the Winter Gardens and its future use, North Somerset Council proposed transferring ownership of the building to Weston College in 2015 for the nominal fee of £1.
An extensive £15m renovation programme restored the building’s public facilities and created an educational centre for law, finance and some university-level courses. In its 90th year, the Winter Gardens Pavilion reopened to the public, its future secured thanks to Weston College.