The Royal Greenwich UTC is a new co-educational college for 600 students aged 14-19, offering GCSE, A level and technical courses, such as BTEC and City & Guilds. Royal Greenwich UTC specialises in engineering and construction and has state-of-the-art equipment to give students the best possible opportunities.
Royal Greenwich UTC is located at the edge of an industrial estate in Charlton, south-east London. It consists of two buildings, a heavily refurbished single-storey warehouse building linked to a new three-storey block. The massing of the new building is designed to maximise its visibility upon the busiest road in the area, providing it with a strong local profile.
The new building complements the existing: the existing single-storey building provides the flexible, open and bright space necessary for construction and engineering workshops; the new building runs perpendicular to the existing, providing an up-to-date, sustainable environment tailored to the purpose of educating and inspiring students.
External working spaces, recreation spaces and hard courts are arranged at the north end of the site. The main entrance to the site is via a pedestrian entrance along the Woolwich Road on the south side of the site, with cycle and vehicle access via Westfield Street on the north side of the site.
The massing of the new building in the context of its local area is in-keeping - the majority of the surrounding buildings are double-height warehouses. The UTC's immediate neighbour, Holborn College, is a tall, pitched roof four-storey building, with a three-storey presence along Woolwich Road.
The UTC's three storeys each have distinct functions relating to the brief. The ground floor in both buildings acts as the hub of the college, housing communal spaces such as the learning resource centre and studios, as well as larger spaces such as the workshops. The first floor, accessed via the main entrance, is professional in appearance, and tailored towards receiving visitors and providing space for administration. The second floor contains all of the general teaching spaces; all classrooms benefit from natural light and views across the site and the neighbouring parks.
The fall of the site posed one of the biggest challenges: an entrance was required on the Woolwich Road for students and visitors, and another a full floor below from the industrial estate, for those cycling to the UTC. Maintaining security with two separate entrances informed the design.
The main entrance to the site is on Woolwich Road. This fully accessible entrance is for pedestrian use, and provides access for students, staff and visitors into the first floor of the college. Within the entrance is a secure meet-and-greet space, with spaces frequented by visitors, such as the apprentice centre, located in close proximity to the entrance. Access to the rest of the building and site is restricted by a secure line on this floor. Out of hours community access to the building is also via this entrance.
The student entrance to the north of the site provides access to the site for those who need to park and secure their bicycles. Staff and students can enter the building via a secure card entrance to the dining area, which is closed off from the rest of the building outside of school hours. Visitors using this entrance are greeted by a member of staff. Out of hours community access to the sports pitches is via this entrance.
The vehicle entrance is primarily for service vehicles and disabled access only. Entry to the building will be the same as the provision for cyclists.
A three-storey block in the south-west corner of the site provides accommodation for studios, dining, classrooms, administration, a learning resource centre, plus business and apprentice centres.
Retain and refurbish
The single-storey sawtooth warehouse building to the south east of the site was previously a Siemens factory. This building sets the tone for the project and acts as the hub of the UTC: the two large, open spaces house the workshops required for the teaching of construction and engineering. They also accommodate fitness, science, plant, changing, kitchen facilities, art and graphics. A series of support spaces, such as IT rich classrooms, CAD/CAM rooms and heat bays are directly accessed off these main two spaces.
The sawtooth roof allows natural daylight and a good degree of natural ventilation to enter the workshops and laboratories. 20% of the building's energy needs are provided by an array of photovoltaics mounted on the south side of the rooflights. M+E services are visible and this industrial aesthetic is a useful teaching tool.
External space plays an integral part of the college’s learning curriculum. The design makes best use of a relatively constrained site. The outdoor areas have been designed to accommodate a wide range of uses while also being simple, robust and visually open. These uses include a fitness circuit and a generous, open outdoor workshop space without any fixed objects, thereby allowing a variety of uses, particularly work on large scale projects, or work that cannot be carried out in an enclosed environment.
Construction and materials
The existing Seimens warehouse consisted of an existing steel frame structure with a lightweight metal cladding. After stripping off the cladding and asbestos, the frame was re-clad to form a fully enclosed, heated teaching and learning space. This was achieved with a brick/block insulated cavity construction.
The roof on the old factory is constructed with a proprietary mill-finished aluminium standing seam roof incorporating insulation, lining sheets, insulation and gutters etc. The spaces in this building are provided with daylight via aluminium-framed fixed and automatically controlled rooflights.
The workshop spaces have three large openings to allow access for large-scale industrial machinery and materials. Each of the three industrial scale roller shutters is painted a distinct colour and has a large-scale number.
A new external steel frame was constructed to the rear of the warehouse providing a frame for an external canopy, constructed from a transluscent polycarbonate roofing material.
With the new build section of the project it was decided to replicate the construction build-up used on the warehouse, in keeping with the industrial context of the area: the building has a steel frame structure with a brick/block insulated cavity external wall build up; windows are an extruded aluminium-framed window system and curtain walling with aluminium ventilation panels. The roof on the new building is constructed with a profiled metal roof deck visible from the underside to continue the industrial aesthetic, and finished with a single-ply roofing membrane build-up in a warm roof configuration. The roof of the new building is a lightweight construction: no services are provided on this roof, therefore minimal access is required.
A perforated metal screen sits across the brickwork on the front elevation and encloses the escape stair on the rear elevation. This provides an industrial material backdrop for large painted letters – UTC – alluding to largescale industrial warehouses and providing a sense of arrival.
Internally, with a limited budget and very tight time constraints to get the project completed on time, the materials palette internally was kept as simple as possible. Reflecting the industrial aesthetic of the old warehouse the services were generally kept visible with minimum ceilings.
Paint grade block partitions in the open plan workshops and plasterboard partitions elsewhere, painted timber doors and glazed screens.
Polished concrete floor in the workshops and carpet and vinyl elsewhere.
The requirements of BB98 were achieved via the use of acoustic panels. In the workshop spaces perforated metal panels were used; in corridors and learning spaces a mixture of wall panels and suspended acoustic panels.
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