5th February 2018
Thinking about building a STEM centre at your college?
Further Education institutions need to address a challenge in STEM provision. That’s offering well-equipped environments that facilitate hands-on teaching methods and doing so on small budgets. The answer to this challenge is in intelligent construction.
Value engineering is a methodology we use to assess the design, materials and systems in building projects to find out where efficiencies can be achieved. For example, we might identify an alternative wall finishing that saves several thousand pounds, or use specialist glazing products that retain heat and save energy costs in the long run.
Understanding the challenge
Many colleges have chosen to build dedicated STEM centres to meet the demands of employers, and the Government’s Industrial Strategy.
In the construction industry we know only too well the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in today’s industry.
We’ve built STEM centres at Middlesbrough College and Northumberland College’s Ashington Campus. And we’re pleased to say that both were completed on time
and in budget.
For us, educational buildings are a focal point for communities, providing a safe, stimulating and sustainable environment for all.
We always consult closely with clients, pupils, teachers and the community to shape the vision of the new environment and meet the needs of future generations.
Of course, every build is different, and we know well the constraints on budgets. Funding allocations for further education providers are falling fast, and last year saw a 14% fall in real terms. Getting value for money is paramount.
We welcomed580 pupils
Create flexible spaces
Building an adaptable space for workshops and teaching facilities is often a key requirement.
For Northumberland College’s STEM centre in Ashington, we installed a galvanised steel trench in the workshop area. This allows the college to adapt the room layout, move equipment and store power and data cables securely.
We also fitted a moveable wall within the building, which can be opened up to create double-height workshop areas.
Minimise disruption to the area
Your STEM centre will likely have a prominent location near a busy college campus and it’s important not to disrupt the smooth working of the institution.
On recent builds we’ve separated the site using Heras fencing and ensured clear signage is in place.
When there is shared road access leading up to the site, it’s advisable to set up a traffic flow system. Site vehicles should drive fully onto site, with materials being delivered on a ‘just in time’ basis and stored in a dedicated lay down area.
For Northumberland College we also surrounded our on-site cutting area to reduce noise and prevent dust from spreading.
Think safe and secure
When it comes to the build itself, many of our projects take place on live sites occupied by children and the public, so we maintain impressive health and safety standards at all times.
For STEM centres of two storeys or more, working at height is an important safety consideration. We’re experienced in conducting work from Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWPs) and alloy towers.
We carry out toolbox talks with every person on site and create thorough risk assessments and method statements.
Focus on technology
The goal for any STEM centre is providing world-class sector-based education, so it’s important to factor specialist equipment into your build.
As part of the STEM centre at Middlesbrough College, we worked closely with the team to produce a real-life lean manufacturing facility, including a robotic controlled production line.
The centre now replicates typical industrial environments and includes fully-functional chemical and oil processes which are monitored and operated from a high-tech control room.
We also installed specialist science and technology workshops, including dedicated ‘fab labs’ where budding product designers and entrepreneurs can access the latest in digital fabrication equipment for prototyping.
Add value as you build
We integrate with schools through fun, informative educational initiatives in classrooms and on-site, giving students useful life skills and vocational insights into the built environment.
While building Northumberland College’s STEM centre, we welcomed 580 pupils from three local schools on-site for workshops and visits. Three students from the college – who studied electrics, plumbing and plastering – completed a five-day work experience placement with relevant trades.