To support its future growth, ESF, the sponsors behind Trinity Academy, appointed the Durham-based award-winning architectural practice HLP, to develop designs for a £1.2m purpose-built sixth form extension to the existing school building to create accommodation for some 350 pupils.
On this occasion, HLP’s brief was to deliver a design which would not only accommodate the academic and pastoral needs of the students, but, aesthetically, would contrast sympathetically with the existing building. A further driver in the design was the need to appeal not only to returning students but also those attending other schools within the catchment area, who might consider switching allegiance to study at Trinity Academy.
Initially, HLP’s innovative team, led by Managing Director Jonathan Yates, considered both two and three-storey solutions. However, working with the school, its students and all other stakeholders and adopting its usual well thought out approach it was decided that the best way forward was to go with a two-storey structure. In so doing, this route would not only fulfil accommodation requirements, it would do so in the most efficient manner from both construction and budgetary perspectives.
The site also presented its own constraints defined by an existing below-ground services and drainage system –- all of which had to be factored into the final design.
The two-storey option also allowed the new south facing extension to sit in front of the original three-storey complex, while at the same time complementing the two-storey entrance and keeping the scale commensurate.
Further to this, a key challenge for the design team was to deliver a design solution on a limited budget and in such a way that the appointed contractor could meet a 25-week build programme, ensuring that the facility was operational in time for the new academic year commencing in September 2014.
With defined floor areas and a budget already in place, HLP’s team had clear parameters with which to work. On a practical level, the new building had to provide additional social, study and teaching facilities, comprising a further five classrooms, student common area, two large IT study areas, as well as a careers and library area.
From another perspective the design also had to meet with the Academy’s desire to brand the sixth form facility so that it would reflect the school’s aspirations, while at the same time be visually stimulating, to attract potential new and returning students.
The final challenge was to ensure that the site remained live at all times, with minimum disruption being essential. This was in some way achieved by adjusting the location of the building at the design stage. However during construction it was down to the contractor whose site access was clearly defined and controlled at all times as sensitivities around pupil safety and noise reduction, particularly while national exams were underway, were of paramount importance.
These aspects were accommodated by implementing a carefully managed delivery and works programme which in turn was supported by close liaison and regular communication between the contractor and the academy.
Given that one of the challenges for the project was its short construction programme, in addition to HLP’s design flair, a key ingredient to successful delivery was the need to appoint a contractor which was well versed in delivering education projects of this type, particularly one with the aforementioned constraints.
Surgo Construction (Surgo), one of the North East’s leading design and build contractors, was appointed to the project.
HLP and Surgo have worked together on many education schemes in particular on academy projects and were the original team who built Trinity Academy. The combined experience of this tried and tested partnership proved invaluable throughout the design and build process, producing a building which was delivered in line with the brief, budget and timescales.
Speaking about the completed project, Jonathan Yates said: “Initially our brief was to create a new and inspiring sixth form facility to meet the growing numbers of students staying in education which would also reflect ESF’s aspirations and mission: to create facilities for young people in which they can develop academically, morally and spiritually to the full. It is a long-held view of mine that the environment in which we learn plays an important role in achieving this.
“At the outset we explored a number of possibilities to determine how the sixth form might look and fit in with the existing building. The two-storey extension has been designed to mirror the original main entrance to the school without becoming too dominant in terms of scale. Also thanks to the choice of materials used, both internally and externally, we have created a facility which appeals to students from other catchment areas.”
The new sixth form centre provides Trinity Academy with a total of 785m2 of accommodation. At ground floor level there is an external cloister, entrance and social area with vending facilities, a meeting space and a 50-place IT hub.
To the first floor there are six teaching spaces of varying size, a staff office and storage facilities. Externally the clever choice of Chameleon clad facade installed to the over-hanging first floor was two-fold. Primarily it was selected for the speed in which it can be installed. Secondly it was chosen for its decorative appeal to fulfil the brief of providing Trinity Academy’s sixth form with a stimulating facility with a signature of its own.
At ground floor level a glazed curtain wall creates the facade, maximising the amount of natural daylight into the common study area, while the over-hang from the first floor protects a further study area from excessive solar gain. Double doors create a formal yet inviting entrance for visitors.
To support Trinity Academy’s aspirations to grow its sixth form student numbers, the facility has been designed and constructed in such a robust way that it will accommodate the changing needs of the school and its students and, as required, meet with future curriculum changes.
With a high level of in-built flexibility the new extension now provides staff with the versatility to take a more flexible approach to the way they teach both large and small groups as well individuals.