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Is it offices? Is it a hangar? No, it's a skills academy

IT LOOKS like it has landed from outer space, but is in fact City of Bristol College's proposed new pound;20 million building, to be sited in on a former airfield.

The four-storey structure, scheduled to open by early 2010, would be home to the college's new skills academy, providing 16- to 19-year-olds and adults with vocational courses such as beauty therapy, catering, construction, engineering and motor vehicle maintenance.

The plan is subject to approval by the Learning and Skills Council.

Designed by SMC Hickton Madeley, a Midlands firm, the 10,800sqm building is part of a regeneration plan for the whole area, which also includes a community hospital, leisure centre, business and residential buildings.

Terry Waterworth, project architect, said: "We proposed a loose-fit, hangar like enclosure that offers functional flexibility for growth and energy efficiency through minimising the external envelope.

"We are developing the strategic brief and early layouts for what we hope will provide a shop window to the vocational courses inside as well as being a blueprint for the design of future skills academies."

The eco-friendly building will benefit from a passive natural ventilation and cooling system, with a south-west facing winter garden to provide social space.

Mr Waterworth said: "Our aim is to receive at least a "very good" Breeam [the Building Research Establishment's Environmental Assessment Method] rating for its environmental performance, as well as complying with building regulations in maximising fuel and power conservation."

Hickton Madeley has also been behind designs at Middlesbrough's Unity City Academy, Staffordshire University, Sutton Coldfield College and Stoke-on-Trent College.

Under a rolling programme partly funded by the LSC, all English colleges many of which are in 1960s and 1970s buildings are being rebuilt or revamped, with the green theme central to these plans.

The renovation of the FE estate has been a major preoccupation of Mark Haysom, LSC chief executive, who believes a better working environment will improve the performance of colleges.

Each year, the LSC runs awards for the best designs. Last year's winner was John Walker Simpson Architects for a design for North Manchester sixth form college and North City public library, commissioned by the Manchester College of Arts and Technology.

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