Lessons We’ve Learnt in Education Construction

5th November 2019

Lessons We’ve Learnt from a Quarter Century in Education Construction – ITC Construction Director Tony Smith

Over the last 25 years, ITC has embarked on an array of projects with universities, colleges, schools and other institutions of education.

Education Sector projects always come with challenges – some of which are common in construction, such as collaborating with multiple stakeholders, short turnarounds, working in occupied spaces and to tight budgets. However, more unique to this sector are education-specific constraints, working to strict term deadlines, noise restrictions, and safeguarding.

After years of working in this sector, it’s clear to me now that there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ education project. We’ve been involved in projects which range from building indoor motion-tracked running lanes in the Bucks New University Human Performance Centre to fitting state-of-the-art equipment in the world’s oldest Bakery school. The only common thread for the variety of works has been a demand for creativity, problem-solving, and specialist technical know-how.

Collaboration was especially important when it came to our 42-week,153-room refurbishment of the Greystar Europe Holdings Ltd Kings Cross student accommodation block. We worked in a sympathetic and non-disruptive manner across several floors and areas at a time, rather than the more traditional floor-by-floor approach. This collaborative approach provided Greystar with the flexibility they required to refurbish parts of the centre without the need for disruptive relocation of students. Clients appreciate buildability advise during the projects, to help solve issues as and when they arise.

A second lesson we’ve learnt is that a conducive learning environment is key to student success – as I have written at length about here. Lessons are no longer taught solely in classrooms; and with more emphasis on independent study, it is even more important that the physical environments support the needs of the students, whether this be break out space, libraries or student accommodation for example. We are currently involved in the WMC Plus: Learning Beyond the Classroom project at Working Men’s College. The College was founded in 1854 and is the oldest surviving adult education institute in Europe. Student requirements have changed a lot since then, and we are upgrading their Learning Resource Centre to meet the digital needs of their students and to help connect spaces within this listed building.

When you are constructing a space which is going to become integral to the life of numerous people, it goes without saying that you listen carefully to the needs and ideas of these current and future users. When ITC was tasked with the refurbishment of the world’ third-tallest student halls of residence, Nido Spitalfields,  we consulted with the residents to understand their needs and priorities. This was reflected this in a re-design – each section of the building was designed to celebrate a different nationality, and featured a huge range of high-end specialist joinery, lighting, fixtures and fittings.

Finally, teams must remember that when you are creating spaces for the next generation to learn, you are building foundations for their future and for the future of society. Thus, you need to be thinking and planning for the decades to come, and anticipating the needs which will arise and the technological trends which will prevail. This was a challenge which we encountered during our extension and refurbishment of LSBU’s Passmore Centre – a space for the development and delivery of apprenticeships in Southwark. We implemented a future-centric approach with the installation of a significant amount of future-proof AV, as well as multiple flexible and/or multi-use spaces which could be adapted over time to suit students.

Looking forward to the next 25 years, I am sure that the education construction sector is going to continue to expand at a rapid pace, as the UK consolidates its reputation as a global centre for learning and research.

In recent years, we have worked on education projects with;

Birkbeck University | Bucks New University | City University | Croydon College | Dulwich College | Education First |  Goldsmiths University | Hall School Wimbledon | Harrow Council | Kingston College | Kingston University | London Borough of Richmond Hampton Academy | London South Bank University | Morley College | Queen Mary University London |  Science Museum | St Richard Reynolds Catholic College | St Andrews C of E School | University of arts London | University of Roehampton | University of Surrey | University College Aylesbury Vale | University College London | University College London Hospital | Working Men’s College | Waldegrave School |

We’d be delighted to hear from you if you looking for the hassle-free delivery of a £500k-£15m education construction project in 2020.