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IN THE ZONE
Careful planning and integrated design should create a world-class educational campus.

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The Macclesfield Learning Zone (MLZ) is a groundbreaking education project undertaken for Macclesfield College and Cheshire County Council (for the benefit of the existing Henbury High School and Park Lane Special School as well as the wider Macclesfield and East Cheshire Community).

The project will:
• Develop a unified campus that will provide a unique, integrated learning concept reflecting the dynamics and aspirations of the end users and e-learners
• Respond to the changing methods of teaching, learning and curriculum
• Embrace the latest technology
• Encourage integration of staff and students
• Provide facilities of the quality that encourages and enables teaching and learning to the highest standards

The £38M project undertaken across the campus of Macclesfield College, a redeveloped former County Council Secondary School site and Park Lane Special School, includes the remodelling of the existing college site to provide a new three storey college building, a new joint sixth form centre with the relocated secondary school and Park Lane School, the extension and refurbishment of the existing learning resource centre to accommodate the relocation of the European Centre for Aerospace Training (ECAT), a new campus wide and community use Sports Centre, the refurbishment and extension of the Henbury High School and the integration of the Special School.

A Macclesfield Learning Zone Masterplan Team was established to achieve planning permission, and the partners appointed two teams of consultants and contractors to undertake the detailed design and delivery of the project. The professional team for the College scheme included civil and structural engineers White Young Green, architects Ellis Williams, project managers AA Projects, mechanical and electrical engineers EDCM and quantity surveyors Gleeds.

The overall concepts for the various buildings were that the college building consisted of a series of elements each housing a principal college element interconnected by a central rotunda. Contemporary in design, the new college will be clad using a combination of cladding panels, glass and render. The sixth form centre will act as the link block between the college and the school and contribute to the sweeping effect of the scheme. Whilst the building retains its own specific identity it incorporates materials from each of the other buildings. The ECAT facility is to be created out of the existing refurbished two storey college LRC building, with a contemporary extension to the rear housing the aeronautics hanger and workshop. The existing metal clad roof will be continued to provide a seamless connection to the rear extension which will be clad in composite panelling, sympathetic to the original building.

White Young Green was appointed as the civil, structural and highways consulting engineers for the scheme and provided all these services within the Manchester office of the business. In addition to these core engineering elements White Young Green was also able to take advantage of the in-house environmental department with regard to specialist advice relating to ground contamination, gas protection and foundation solutions.

Following its appointment White Young Green reviewed the scheme and identified the key engineering issues which included ground conditions, highways, structural framing and attenuation of surface water drainage. However, the primary issue on the scheme involved the interface of the works within a live college environment and the maintenance of the college activities during the works. To overcome this a detailed phasing plan, including the provision of temporary accommodation was developed which allowed the buildings to be constructed in phases, thus allowing the college to decant staff and students into the new buildings, vacating the existing buildings, which could then be demolished to create the space for the subsequent stages.

During each of these distinct phases the provision of access for both construction traffic and the staff and students was clearly planned and separation maintained. A major factor in the enabling of this phased approach was the provision of a temporary car park at the front of the site, which released significant areas of the existing external works for construction activities. On completion of the building works the new car park areas are to be finished and the temporary car park removed and reinstated into a football pitch.

Ground conditions on the site proved problematic. A physical site investigation uncovered highly variable strata including clay, silt and alluvial layers. This created problems both in terms of potential differential settlement across the various buildings and the generation of ground gases. To overcome these issues a fully piled solution was adopted for both the frame and the ground floor slabs of all three buildings and a proprietary passive gas venting system was installed to collect gas and vent to atmosphere at the building perimeter.

Due to the geometry of the buildings with their curved facades and circular central hub, a steel framed solution was deemed to be the most appropriate. Composite metal deck floors were incorporated to reduce beam sizes and to provide diaphragm action to transfer the lateral loads back to braced bays within the external elevations that were co-ordinated with the architectural treatment of the buildings.

Whilst the building floors predominantly consist of composite metal decking the roof area above the Learning Research Centre has been designed as precast concrete units. This has been adopted to assist the thermal design of the building as the exposed concrete acts as a heat sink to moderate the heat build up in an area where the thermal output due to usage is envisaged to be at its highest. This approach means that the amount of cooling required within the building can be minimised.

Framing System
To enhance the buildability of the scheme a proprietary secondary steel framing system is to be used to support both the internal wall finishes and the external cladding. This eliminates the need for blockwork and simplifies construction details to windows and cladding features.

A fundamental feature of the schemes was the provision of a new site entrance to reflect the integration of the college and schools buildings. As a result, a new signalled junction incorporating widening of the existing carriageway for a new left turning lane and layby was designed. These works will be undertaken under a Section 278 Agreement with the local council.

Drainage for the revised scheme also needed to be addressed. Due to the amendment to the external works, and the more stringent requirements in terms of allowable surface discharge into the public sewers from the Environment Agency, a system of attenuation was designed and incorporated within the project. Prior to discharge from the site the surface water is throttled back and stored temporarily in below ground storage cells to allow a reduced flow out from the site during peak rainfall.

In addition to the primary engineering services in the scheme White Young Green has also been appointed to undertake the BREEAM Assessment on the College project with Willmott Dixon (the County Council’s framework partnering contractor) likewise undertaking such an assessment for the School scheme. This nationally recognised assessment methodology allows the rating of a building against pre-established criteria to determine and rate the environmental aspects of a project and also includes both the planning, construction and management aspects. Whilst this process is ongoing it is envisaged that the MLZ will achieve a ‘very good’ BREEAM rating.

Throughout the scheme, close liaison and co-ordination with the other partners of the MLZ has been undertaken to carefully plan and manage the interfaces between the other projects being undertaken, the Henbury High School scheme which incorporates the campus wide and community use Sports Centre and the Park Lane School Project. It was recognised that such close consultation would be fundamental to the success of the MLZ concept that a unified and consistent approach was adopted across the scheme.

Following a competitive tendering and selection process Interserve Project Services Limited has recently been appointed, on a Design and Build basis, to undertake the actual construction of the college scheme, with White Young Green and Ellis Williams Architect being novated to the contractors team. Works are due to commence on site imminently with a programmed completion of April 2008.

Through the careful planning, in depth co-ordinated design process and well-managed construction activities it is envisaged that the team will deliver a world-class educational campus that will not only meet but also surpass the aspirations of all the stakeholders and provide the benchmark for future educational schemes. CT-E

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