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Northampton College Advanced Engineering Centre
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People talking in a building under construction
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East Northamptonshire Enterprise Centre
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School students having a discussion with their teacher
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A Starship Robot driving down a street
Northampton Waterside CampusNorthampton Waterside Campus
Northampton Waterside Campus

The building blocks of our community

26 October 2021

Written by Judith Barker, Director of Programmes and Governance

The building blocks of our community When you think about where you want to live, what do you consider? Personally, I want a good balance of countryside and connectivity. I want to be able to walk the woodlands on the weekend but also get into local towns and cities, giving me and my family, a balanced lifestyle knowing that we are considering our carbon impact.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about what makes the best new home possible. The answer? Sustainable and well-planned communities and modern construction methods with net zero carbon built in from the outset.

The construction industry not only builds our roads and railways, it builds our schools, our hospitals and our homes. Construction is the physical building blocks of our community and creates the foundations of a strong economy and society. Our wellbeing is dependent on where we live and what we can do there, indoors and out.

Last week, I attended the opening of the Bedford College Group’s Connolly Centre for Modern Construction. The facility, awarded £2.9m through our Getting Building Fund, is one of only two facilities in England offering students the opportunity to learn the latest modern construction methods in an offsite environment. Young people will be inspired there, learn new construction methods and implement them right here in the South East Midlands!

The new centre houses a range of state-of-the-art equipment used in modern methods of construction which will enable students to get hands-on experience, starting with their own four walls. Initial conversations are happening to use the equipment to reclad the college’s tower-block right next door. With premanufacturing homes and shipping them to building sites being identified as the most efficient and cost-effective ways of meeting the demand for housing, we truly believe this facility will support the quality of the built environment.

The Howick FRAMA™ 5600 can manufacture heavy and wide section frames and trusses with ease. If the project goes ahead, students will use the FRAMA™ 5600 to create materials for the recladding right next door; teaching key skills, reducing shipping costs and cutting carbon emissions all in one go. It will also make the College an even more attractive asset in the town attracting more students to learn and grow there.

Talking about cutting carbon emissions, did I mention that the facility has been certified as carbon neutral? The fantastic team at The Bedford College Group worked tirelessly to ensure the facility supports the environment, as well as students. I think this is a fantastic statement for future construction, showing students how construction can be sustainable, modern and dynamic. This is what we need to build into all new construction as we consider our personal and worldwide wellbeing and the future as we reach for net zero in 2050.

Having visited the building previously, I could not believe the transformation inside and out. Those of you who know Bedford will recognise the outside of the facility from Cauldwell Street. The new cladding gives the facility a refreshed look and brightens up the gateway to the town. Another benefit from the street scene is generating more pride in the town centre alongside the investment in the high street, funded by the SEMLEP Local Growth Fund and that of the Towns Fund coming soon.

Inside, classrooms overlooking the workshop space have been built, giving students the opportunity to visualise what they’ll be learning about in the classroom. Visiting the facility, you can really tell that the students have been considered in every detail of the renovation.

Rather than your standard school hallway stock imagery, the college has put the plumbing, electric and steel plans of the facility on the walls. Students can view the plans of the building their learning about creating plans in! (See what I mean about attention to detail?).

There is a huge opportunity here right at the heart of the Oxford to Cambridge Arc to train our next generation of construction workers, whether that be 16-year-olds starting apprenticeships, students undertaking T-levels, degree-level courses and/or those currently in the industry who want to modernise their skills.

I’m proud that SEMLEP has been able to support this facility through the Getting Building Fund and can’t wait to see students using the centre and developing new, key skills. I’m also hugely proud of the team at the Bedford College Group for getting this project up and running so quickly.

The Connolly Centre for Modern Construction is one of the first Getting Building Fund projects to open its doors, which was no easy feat. Announced last June, the fund was designed to aid COVID recovery and future growth. With just over a year turnaround, the project really does showcase how modern construction can unlock economic growth in the South East Midlands and beyond, as well as support ‘our vision of a sustainable and well-planned future.

People inside the Connolly Centre for Modern Construction

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