Eurban worked closely with architects Hewitt Studio and Main Contractors Willmott Dixon to deliver this new building for South Gloucester and Stroud (SGS) College.
SGS College has 5 main campuses in the Gloucestershire and Bristol area, delivering 6th form and vocational training courses across the south-west. The Brunel Centre is on the WISE campus in north Bristol and will provide additional teaching space for a range of courses. SGS College’s mission statement is to ‘add value to the social and economic well-being of our communities’. To achieve this, students need to be inspired to continue in education; the College’s physical environment as well as the state-of-the-art facilities can play a key role to attaining this mission.
The Brunel Centre was conceived as a physical manifestation of the College’s mission: a vibrant, transparent working environment moving away from the more traditional approach of closed off classrooms. As stated by the architect’s Hewitt Studios: It rejects conventional ideas of how a school should look, feel and function, focusing instead on ﬂexible spaces that support modern working practice. Wellbeing and sustainability are integral to the design, creating a healthy, inspiring building; good to its users and good to the planet.
The Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) structure is left exposed in many areas. The tactility of this natural material on the walls, soﬃts, stairs and beams creates calm interiors, proven to improve concentration and reduce stress. The 2 kinked wings that house the teaching spaces surround an open atrium space where the circulation converges. Windows into the teaching spaces give views through the building and create a feeling of transparency and openness which was a key concept of the design.
The CLT structure was manufactured oﬀsite in Austria, delivered to site and assembled by a small team in just 6 weeks. The ability to install CLT structures at this speed with less labour proved even more of an advantage than usual as this building was on site during the pandemic.
The building’s low energy ambitions are not only achieved through the stored carbon of the structure but also the services design for the life time of the building. The architects’ state: The services are entirely electric, anticipating the National Grid’s decarbonisation and ensuring the building is “smart grid ready”, in line with plans for solar arrays on the campus’ existing buildings. This is referenced in the building’s prefabricated, photovoltaic brise soleil; sculptural ‘wings’ that showcase these aspirations, while nodding to the area’s world-leading aviation heritage.
The building was almost entirely publicly funded and therefore sets a standard. It proves that the delivery of high-quality, sustainable architecture is possible despite budgetary constraints.
The overwhelmingly positive reaction to the Brunel Centre was articulated by the vision lead on the customer side, Andy Slaneys:
“A fantastic eﬀort. Project delivered on time, on budget … High environmental performance,
low emissions (all electric) but most importantly a calm, purposeful space that SGS learners
and staﬀ will want to be in. No compromise, just better in every way.”