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Specifier's choice:Telford College, Edinburgh

A high level of collaboration left the choice of supplier as flexible as possible against performance specification. Sutherland Lyall reports

Edinburgh's Telford College is one of those inclusive, all-ages educational establishments which run programmes ranging from secondary-school classes to evening and Saturday schools on building and engineering, science, performing arts, textiles and fashion, and from tertiary education to a vast English programme for overseas students. Until now, it has been located in four separate sites around Edinburgh. The goal was to relocate all the schools in a single 30,000m 2 campus, a ú42.5 million project, on a newly available site in Edinburgh's West Granton Waterfront development, an area masterplanned by the Foster office.

Team design The architect is the UK branch of US practice HOK and, like the rest of the design team, was procured on an OJEC notice by the client and the project manager, Atkins Faithful & Gould. The team includes Buro Happold for structures, Max Fordham for services, Arup Acoustics, and Edinburgh-based quantity surveyor Doig & Smith. HOK project manager Brian Fishenden says: 'The design was a fairly lengthy process. One of the big challenges was understanding the brief and the relationships between departments - you wouldn't want to locate ballet dancing next to bricklaying. And each of the schools had its own requirements. From the beginning of 2002, we spent quite a few months going through the gathering of information and then blocking and stacking the spaces before coming out with a logical set of relationships between the departments and the spaces. In the process, the design form changed three or four times'.

'At each RIBA stage we prepared a report for the client and, in one way or another, they signed them off. It has been a fairly fraught process. This was not a professional client and our task has been to guide it through the process. There have been ups and downs but we have actually had a good relationship with them. The client had clear aspirations for the quality of the building. It wanted a world-class teaching establishment, not a set of corridors with rooms off them. There was, of course, an unspoken 'if I can afford it' between the lines.' Building blocks The design is a very elongated U-shape, with its base along Granton Road to the south formed by the resource centre at ground floor level and staff offices on the two floors above.

The two arms of the U contain two teaching blocks, terminated on the east by a narrow trapezoidal building/engineering block, and on the west by a large single-storey block, set at an angle. This block contains a nursery and sports hall with a flat barrel-vaulted roof.

Between the first two four-storey teaching blocks at the south end is a big central hub space, with curving glulam beams spanning between the two, supporting steel carriers for big ETFE pillows.

The typical teaching block has a linear atrium down the middle, lit by a glazed vault with side ventilation louvres. Fishenden says: 'The client was keen on environmental sustainability, with natural ventilation and natural light, and we developed the basic teaching-block section to bring light and ventilation into the teaching areas. There were technical complexities to do with sound from the road, which Arup Acoustics has been dealing with.' The ground floor, the 'learning street', is used for study and learning activities. On the floor below this are those spaces which require mechanical servicing if they are to function, such as teaching kitchens.

Extranet collaboration HOK, builder ISG Interior Exterior and most of the other design team partners use AutoCAD. ISG uses an extranet building information system called Project Information Channel from BIW (Building Information Warehouse), a proprietary document-management package. Fishenden says: 'We post-revise drawings on its website and notify the rest of the team that they are there - it is a fairly simple web collaboration application. Elsewhere, we have worked with Bovis' Hummingbird [document control system].' HOK normally uses Buzzsaw, the project manager uses the Atkins system iPronet, and Arup has Integration. They all have the common function of enabling members of the design team to track what is going on by maintaining the core files in a commonly accessible, but highly secure, data store. Fishenden says: 'Increasingly, we find bigger projects have some kind of extranet web collaboration such as this. This one relies on people using it properly. Like all of them, it's a bit long-winded.' According to BIW, such project extranets are currently being used on more than 1,000 construction projects around the country.

Design build with a twist This was a design and build contract. Douglas McCormick of project manager Atkins Faithful & Gould explains: 'The college had looked, with its lawyers, at a number of procurement routes. The primary objective in the contract was to ensure that there was sufficient detail fo the college to get the building they wanted, but to transfer the risk to the contractor.' The result was a bespoke two-stage design and build contract, based on the JCT form but written by the college's lawyer, Brodies.

McCormick says: 'The first stage was to select a contractor and involve them, for a fee, in the pre-construction procurement of work packages.' Once selected, ISG Interior Exterior started work on the preliminaries, including the contract and the specification.

Although the piling contract was started on the basis of a letter of intent, no other construction work began until the final details of the main contract were sorted out.

McCormick took the view that it would be unfair not to involve the contractor in establishing the tender packages. He says: 'This is the key. At this stage the design team isn't novated and everybody works together to a stage where the contractor can say it can go ahead for a particular price. At Telford College, McCormick says: 'There has been a level of collaboration which is very positive and has worked very well. I think it's people who make things happen. If you are working to a common goal so that the risk is clearly understood as a primary factor, you then find a contractual form which is appropriate.' There were other perceived advantages with the design-build procurement route.

Project manager Fishenden says: 'The client wanted the contractor to use its buying power - not for just anything but for the right products to the right specification.

In our minds we probably had a particular material in mind when we wrote the specification so that, say, the curtain walling part of the specification would be satisfied if you used Sch³co. But what we can't do is restrict the contractor by pointing to one supplier.' Fishenden says: 'It probably sometimes leads us to a few concerns over real quality.

But then I think in the way this project has been run, we have produced quite a lot more design than you might do under a standard design-and-build contract. We have gone further down the line and have been much more detailed in the drawings than usual, and the spec almost pushes the contractor to specific manufacturers.' Although much of the contract contains performance specifications, McCormick says it varies from package to package, from almost standard NBS, through bespoke to performance.

Work in progress Once a coal gasworks, the site had three big gasometers and the ground was reasonably contaminated. During the process of buying it, the site had to be remediated before Stent Foundations of Glasgow could install the footings - a mix of piling and concrete pads. Currently, the sub and superstructure contractor Dunne Building and Civil Engineering has erected the basic structure up to second floor level. Steelworker Billington Structures is on site for the structure of the two steel-framed northernmost blocks.

The cladding package has been let to Dane Architectural Systems. Dane project manager for Telford College, Graham Cox, explains: 'We had been working with Exterior at the Bexley Business Academy which went extremely successfully and we had preferredbidder status, with several others, at Telford.

There was a very well developed performance specification for the cladding - and there were a lot of specified materials. We went through a long value-engineering process and we offered different materials when they would help achieve a satisfactory contract figure.

The whole process was completely open.' The elevations of many of the buildings are composed with large planes of light-coloured terracotta from the German company, NBK, punctuated by Sch³co windows. These panels float on a background of curtain walling, again from Sch³co. The top floors of the four-storey teaching blocks are clad in metal panelling. The basic walling system is a bespoke Dane system involving 200mm unitised stud walling, assembled and sealed off-site. The inner panel is galvanised steel, and the external panel is Pyrock, its outer face fixed with 100mm of Rockwool behind terracotta and metal rainscreens.

The issue for Dane was the acceptance of its proposal for motorised brises-soleil to the teaching blocks. Cox says: 'This was completely bespoke. Normally Levolux, the brise soleil specialist, would have been subcontractor to the main contractor, but here they formed part of the cladding package. A critical issue for the client was to minimise wind-induced noise - the sort of harmonics that set up when you hang things from the outside of buildings. Arup Acoustics looked at the proposals and were happy.' The wide louvres are special extrusions which have been perforated and are actuated by levers motivated by heavy-duty linear motors, each controlling 3m 2 sections over the second and third floors of the teaching blocks.

The roof has been specified as a singlelayer membrane of the Sarnafil type and Topek BUR has successfully claimed this package. Crown House Engineering has the mechanical-services subcontract and FES the electrical-services contract.

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