May 01, 2017 Last Updated 10:20 AM, Apr 28, 2017

College community

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The recently completed renovation of Royal Leamington Spa College supports the idea that the best developments are those that reflect its end-user. The success of this contract stems from the project teams' ability to undergo a £12m redevelopment of an existing college to create a practical, yet innovative space – alike to those students attending the College.

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Recently launched under a new group name – Warwickshire College Group – Royal Leamington Spa College has joined up with six other colleges across the region to create a ‘college community’. While holding a collective set of values, each college takes ownership of their own brand and identity, and it is perhaps this new contemporary building which represents Leamington Spa’s diversity and entrepreneurial aspirations.

Now one of the largest private building contractors in the West Midlands, Speller Metcalfe was selected as main contractor for the high profile scheme. The original contract included the conversion of both the three-storey ‘S’ block and six-storey ‘M’ block which allowed for new and improved teaching facilities, as well as a new plant room and the focal point of the project – the new atrium.

Procurement route

Early engagement by the project team allowed for the procurement of specialist sub-contractors, plant and materials to ensure high quality at reasonable cost.

Building Services Engineers, Greenways and Partners LTD, were subsequently appointed pre-construction to allow for an official procurement route to be carefully planned, which led to in-depth interviews with specialist M&E contractors.

As part of this process, Greenways conducted an in-depth dilapidation survey of the existing M&E services to gain a better understanding of what had to be replaced or could be recycled. Overall reutilisation of M&E plant and equipment saved the client in excess of £150,000.

After the initial enabling works, the project team started on the envelope of both buildings to create a modern external facade. This included Sto rendering works on ‘S’ block and the installation of rain screen cladding on ‘M’ block.

Both buildings were also re-roofed with an insulated single ply roofing membrane which is a more low-cost method of providing thermal insulation to a building.

Following external works, Speller Metcalfe began on the internal refurbishment of ‘S’ block which included the installation of a partition wall and suspended ceilings. ‘Learning zones’ were incorporated into each floor with flexible, open-plan spaces – giving students the chance to learn in a more practical environment that better suits their needs. ‘M’ block similarly has technology integrated into the building, allowing students to ‘learn by doing’. The ground floor refectory and dining room were also refurbished to create a strikingly modern canteen for staff and pupils.

The existing 1950s reception building has had a visual transformation incorporating a substantial 400m² extension. Adopting a design which mirrors an airport style entrance with large glass windows has provided an abundance of open space and natural light. This statement entrance is considered by the architect Robothams’ Associate Director, Chris Ballantine, to be: “The shop front – projecting an image of an innovative, accessible organisation providing high quality learning opportunities.”

A ‘marketplace’ located in the atrium also offers hair and beauty treatment facilities, and ‘incubator’ units for entrepreneurial learners along with multi-functional pod areas with enhanced acoustics. This provides an interactive space for learning, with Director of Estates, Jon Vickery, commentating that, “The modern learning spaces created by the project have played a vital part in developing the entrepreneurial ethos delivered as part of the curriculum.”

Reported energy savings

Speller Metcalfe is well regarded for its sustainable expertise – only last year delivering the highest rated BREEAM project in the world for Western Power Distribution. At Leamington Spa College, extensive insulation and ground source heat pumps have contributed to a scoring of BREEAM Very Good.

The atrium is not just visual but economical – increasing energy performance, comfort and green credentials of the building itself. Although only three months since building occupation, the College has reported current energy readings to indicate a keen reduction in energy bills.

Working within a live building will always throw up challenges yet with detailed planning and a transparent approach, Speller Metcalfe was able to overcome various logistical problems. Deliveries were scheduled around busy periods and a temporary entrance was built into ‘A’ block to ensure that students were kept separate from building works.

A collaborative approach has also meant that students now have a fitting environment for their educational development. This is echoed by Nik Chambers, Operations Director for Greenways and Partners LTD, who attributes the scheme success to the project team’s working ethos: “[The project may not have] been without its challenges, but due to the team’s ‘no blame’ culture we have overcome any engineering problems.”

As an Associate Member of the Considerate Constructors Scheme, Speller Metcalfe is a driver for improving the image of the construction industry. An impressive final score of 41 out of 50 was a result of its close relationship to Leamington Spa’s students and staff. The Site Manager led extensive tours for pupils and guests, including The Shadow Secretary of State for Education. Students taking plumbing and electrical installation courses were also given varied and detailed talks on the scheme’s design and construction.

The project team has successfully met Leamington Spa College’s overall objective; to create an educational space which aids and develops existing and potential student creativity. Taking a holistic approach, the team has constructed a space designed to accommodate the specific courses offered by the College. Outside of the project programme, Speller Metcalfe has offered additional benefits to students such as on-site learning experiences. All of these practical elements have been met with a cutting-edge design that best reflects the Colleges’ own entrepreneurial ambitions.

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