Students show their true mettle on steelworks site

A design and build project is bringing the best out of an industrious college group. Julia Belgutay reports

More than 20 years after the closure of the famous Ravenscraig steelworks in Motherwell, students at a local college are helping to revitalise the site with an innovative design and build project.

The area that was once home to the steel and ironworks is being developed by construction group BRE into an innovation park, where the latest technology for sustainability and energy performance will be showcased through full-scale demonstration homes. One of them has been conceived by architectural design and technology students at Motherwell College using computer- aided design (CAD) and will be built by members of the college's engineering department.

The students' design looks to mix traditional best practice with innovative, untried techniques. It includes consideration of location, orientation and glazing in an effort to maximise solar heat gain. It also reflects current trends in construction by incorporating a timber frame.

To design the building, students used industry-leading CAD skills, which the college is teaching in an effort to prepare the students for what is a highly competitive sector.

Lecturer Michael McGuire told TESS that to design and construct the project, from planning the spaces to gaining planning permission and overseeing the actual building process, was an invaluable opportunity for the students.

"Architectural technology is about understanding design, buildability and performance of buildings. The Curriculum House project will allow our students to experiment with new materials in a real construction project," he said.

He stressed that of particular benefit will be the experience of being on the building site and following the process all the way from the initial planning stages. The students agree. It would be great "to go on and see it being put together", says David Hunter, 18, an HNC student from East Kilbride. "Experience is everything," says his colleague Ewan Govan, 19, from Milngavie.

Funding the project had become a major concern, since the college had started to plan it before the FE sector was hit by severe funding cuts over the past few years. Securing the support of various partner companies had been essential to the project's staying on track, Mr McGuire explains.

Once the building is completed, its efficiency and usability will be tested over the next two years. After that, the college plans to take it apart, recycle the materials and begin construction on a new house, providing the next generation of students with the Curriculum House experience.

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