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Truro College

Truro College, Fal and Lynher Buildings

 

Background & Context

 

Type of project:

 

This was a new build extending the main site.

 

There were two motives for the project:

 

  1. Fal building: A new HE building for the main site campus. The College had developed HE over several years integrated within Programme Areas across the campus but having reached 700 full time HE students it was important to create a new discrete HE facility.
  2. Lynher building: A new FE building to accommodate the increase in the number of FE students (3700 full time FE students). The new building accommodates the Sports Programme Area and the Health & Community Studies Programme Area.

 

Start and End dates:

 

May 2005 - 0ct 2006.

 

Case Study tags: learning spaces, new build, truro and penwith collegetruro collegesouth-west englandfurther education

 

This was an expansion of the estate. For the last six or seven years Truro College has run HE courses in FE provision buildings and with the Combined Universities of Cornwall being established, a specific HE building was required.

 

FE students are excluded from using this building unless they are escorted in by a member of staff specifically to look at something. It is a very different environment than the FE environment. There has been a growing need over the last four or five years for this kind of facility - but it has taken time to get funding in place and securing the land. Land was purchased adjacent to the Truro campus.

 

All of our spaces are designed to be flexible.

 

The building is environmentally friendly and in some areas above the required standard e.g. insulation. There is anti-solar glazing in both buildings with a Brise Soleil (sun shades) around the Fal building.

 

Success Factors

 

In both buildings it is the layout - in Fal there are no barriers in place - when a student comes in every part of the space is visible. In Lynher there is a study skills base so that staff can work 1:1 with students and this is sited in the middle of the room but the space has high ceilings with windows down the length of the wall so it's very light and airy. The students can use any of the resources and there are no real restrictions in place to hamper this - other than noise, food (users are only allowed to consume water within the LRC but this can be difficult to police at times), mobile phones and the usual restrictions; the IT provision is fully utilised. The staff are friendly, supportive and knowledgeable of the book stock and liaise very well with the course tutors in the buildings. The staff throughout the building know one another and this helps nurture relationships and dialogue. This open approach is symptomatic of the ethos that runs throughout the college.

In Fal there is a social area with comfortable settees and coffee tables, adjacent to newspapers and journals - encouraging casual activity. There is a huge 'food village' on the ground floor of the building and students can consume food and drink there. Users are encouraged to go downstairs if they want to have a break. When it comes to mobile phone use students are requested to walk out into the corridors to chat on the phone so the LRC is generally quite quiet. The noisier area tends to be where the computers are and these have deliberately been positioned near to the doors. The quieter areas tend to be at the other end of the space where the study corrals are sited. The expectation is that users will adjust their noise levels accordingly as they move from area to area within the space.

 

The induction area, where the plasma screen is located has 1800 mm high acoustic panels (sound proofing) around it.

 

Ventilation is through the floor with vents at regular spaces throughout the floor - air gently comes up through these plastic grids.

 

What Is Innovative About The Design And The Use Of The Space?

 

The whole design of the Fal building is innovative. It's quite stunning to look at. The two atriums on either side of the building speak light and space. The building is not a traditional square shape. The roof fits two different ways - pointing in different directions - starting and ending at different heights - rather like a ski slope. The roof is designed to channel rainfall down a spout which itself is an architectural feature.

 

The Lynher building is built around a sports hall that has a roof made of similar 'bubbles' to those on the Eden Project.

 

Wherever possible the lighting is low energy and there are automatic controls to turn out the lights where possible. Lights will shut down if there is no movement within 20 minutes in classrooms and offices.

 

The lights nearest to the windows will automatically go lower in bright sunlight if the room lights are turned on.

The chilled beam technology in the LRC means that natural convection gives a consistent temperature across the space. Air is blown into the space through vents in the floor. The temperature of this air is controlled according to the temperature of the outside air. i.e. more heat in cool weather.

 

In Fal a huge central circular skylight allows a column of natural light into the space. In Lynher a half circle of light allows light into the back of the room and there are windows running the entire length. The staff area in both LRC's was placed directly under this and a counter put in place. The other areas were designed around this central counter. The LRC staff were not involved in the design of the building but were given the spaces to design once the main design was established. This is not a desirable situation - full involvement would allow for better utilisation.

In Fal the computing area has a half height divider along one side of it - but this was for purely practical purposes - so that computers could be placed alongside it - they needed something that was quite firm and could have cables run along it. The other areas are not visibly separated by partitions as such although they have been set up in such a way as to give a visible prompt to the user as they enter the space with regard to how the space is separated.

The side walls are made of glass and if you look down from them you see an atrium at either side of the building which is itself completely glass and allows an impressive view over the Cornish landscape. The LRC is subsequently very light and feels very spacious.

 

The windows do not open - the temperature is regulated by the chilled beam system.

 

In Lynher use of the space is obvious by the furniture. The windows do open.

 

The Fal and Lynher buildings are completely new buildings with infrastructure (car parks, delivery etc.) The LRC takes up much of the third floor in Fal. In Lynher we were allocated a room well after the design had been completed so had to 'make do' but the space is light and interesting. In Fal the LRC is a multi-purpose suite with computers, support staff (IT, library and career development), book stock, study area and Wi-Fi area for use of laptops. Lynher is similar but without the careers staff or the Wi-Fi.

 

In Fal activity centres on student borrowing resources and using IT facilities. It is an enormous room with air-handling and heating designed for the entire room so it was not possible to build solid partitions within the space. So that users working on different activities don't disturb others, the area is informally divided into seven main areas and an additional small area for careers information. The main areas are: the book stacks, the counter area, the Wi-Fi area, the quiet study area, the social area, the computing area and a media workshop area where students from the art and photography areas have specialised kit for mounting work.

 

The computer area is in one corner of the huge room and there are 37 computers in this space on wedge shaped tables for efficient use of space. This wedge footprint maximises the amount of space available to the student. The student has space for books, etc but the furniture actually takes up a very small footprint on the floor because of its shape. The wedge shape was used to maximise the number of computers that could be installed; if we had used rectangular or round tables the potential number of computers would be much reduced. This was important as experience has shown there is always a requirement for more computers than are available in an LRC. Sourcing of the wedge shaped tables was by chance - a company involved in a new build school next door to Truro College dropped in on the off-chance that they might be of some assistance and they showed images of the alteration work that was underway at Exeter College. A subsequent visit to Exeter College showed that the wedge shaped desks being used were very space efficient.

 

In Lynher the same wedge shaped tables were used for the same reason i.e. space efficiency.

 

Funding Sources

Total Project cost £21 million. Funding received:

HEFCE £4.1 m for Fal

ERDF £3.7 m for Fal

LSC £3.1 m for Lynher

Truro College £10 m

 

Project costs

Fal £11.5 m

Lynher £9.5 m

LRC in Fal including Fittings approx £92,000

LRC in Lynher £300,000

 

Technology

 

In Fal there is an induction space with a large plasma screen. This is used for anything required - not just for induction purposes but also by students for presentation practices to staff or groups of their peers.

The IT suite has scanners, printers and PCs (there is a Mac suite available elsewhere on campus). Specialist software and equipment (including ergonomic keyboards) is available in the suite for students with specific requirements. There are no whiteboards or smart boards in the space - it is not designed for teaching activity.

In Lynher there are 20 computers, a scanner and a printer.

 

Adding Value

It gets the students through the doors in the first instance - and encourages them to come back on a daily basis - the computers are fully used all day, every day.

 

The use of the plasma screen by the students supports learning and teaching.

 

In Lynher the computers are very important in getting students into the LRC. The study skills support staff are clearly visible and they walk and talk to the students and build up the relationships to encourage students to talk to them about their work. This has proved really valuable with this particular group of students whose needs in this area are high.

 

Success Factors

 

In both buildings it is the layout - in Fal there are no barriers in place - when a student comes in every part of the space is visible. In Lynher there is a study skills base so that staff can work 1:1 with students and this is sited in the middle of the room but the space has high ceilings with windows down the length of the wall so it's very light and airy. The students can use any of the resources and there are no real restrictions in place to hamper this - other than noise, food (users are only allowed to consume water within the LRC but this can be difficult to police at times), mobile phones and the usual restrictions; the IT provision is fully utilised. The staff are friendly, supportive and knowledgeable of the book stock and liaise very well with the course tutors in the buildings. The staff throughout the building know one another and this helps nurture relationships and dialogue. This open approach is symptomatic of the ethos that runs throughout the college.

In Fal there is a social area with comfortable settees and coffee tables, adjacent to newspapers and journals - encouraging casual activity. There is a huge 'food village' on the ground floor of the building and students can consume food and drink there. Users are encouraged to go downstairs if they want to have a break. When it comes to mobile phone use students are requested to walk out into the corridors to chat on the phone so the LRC is generally quite quiet. The noisier area tends to be where the computers are and these have deliberately been positioned near to the doors. The quieter areas tend to be at the other end of the space where the study corrals are sited. The expectation is that users will adjust their noise levels accordingly as they move from area to area within the space.

 

The induction area, where the plasma screen is located has 1800 mm high acoustic panels (sound proofing) around it.

 

Ventilation is through the floor with vents at regular spaces throughout the floor - air gently comes up through these plastic grids.

 

What Is Innovative About The Design And The Use Of The Space?

The whole design of the Fal building is innovative. It's quite stunning to look at. The two atriums on either side of the building speak light and space. The building is not a traditional square shape. The roof fits two different ways - pointing in different directions - starting and ending at different heights - rather like a ski slope. The roof is designed to channel rainfall down a spout which itself is an architectural feature.

 

The Lynher building is built around a sports hall that has a roof made of similar 'bubbles' to those on the Eden Project.

 

Top Tips

 

Get involved right from the start - make sure you know exactly what the timetable is for the build, when you need to provide information on where you want to put computers, shelving, counters etc.

Make sure the designers (and then the builders) fully understand your requirements against their plans. You can't be expected to get involved in something two thirds the way through and pick up where somebody has designed what they think a library needs - rather than involving the experts themselves.

 

Visit half a dozen places that have been newly built or refurbished - find out what's out there and what works.

 

See what the suppliers are doing - don't just stick to the traditional library suppliers either. The shelving at Truro has come from traditional library supplier but other furnishings have been provided by other suppliers (office suppliers and other educational suppliers). There's a lot out there but you do have to spend time finding what is suitable for you.

Get into the new space as soon as you can because what you see on the plans and what you see the first time you walk through the door do not necessarily match up and you can spot something and think 'oh yes we can do this', or 'that wall is perfect for that' - when you see the light it's much easier to visualise things and think what you can do with the space.

Also if you're the type of person who finds it difficult to visualise this kind of thing then get someone in who can as you don't get the chance to do it again - you frequently only get one shot at this and then it can be several years before they'll let you do it again, or the money will be available to do it again.

 

Lessons Learned

 

It is all down to lack of communication - the architects have never asked for, nor have we been allowed, any input into the design. Because we had no input in either building there are problems for us with both. In Fal we have four doors, two would have been enough. In Lynher there is an office off the LRC which is used by the secretary for one of the curriculum teams which means that security is compromised by the number of people tramping in during the holidays.

Cabling, etc has not gone without a hiccup. The initial wiring work by the electricians had to be re-done to ensure that power was discreetly available to each computer. Once the electricians understood what was needed they delivered what was required. This meant a delay of three or four days. It also meant that as the electricians had cut holes in the carpet tiles in the wrong places then the tiles had to be replaced. This re-emphasises the need to be there and be involved in the process throughout - or have someone else who knows exactly what is expected at the end of the day to ensure that everything is okay.

 

One of the most aggravating things for LRC staff - and this has happened throughout - is that light switches appear 3 or 4 feet along a wall - this has a knock-on effect for shelving. In order to maximise on wall space the light switches must be adjacent to the door frame and the electric cables should be in line and sockets for cleaners, security gates etc. should be directly underneath.

 

Also placing of fire extinguishers etc - sometimes they are appointed in such a way as to waste space that could potentially be used for other purposes - including shelving. It would be better if they were appointed next to doors, counters or staff desks and not part way along a blank wall! This demonstrates the importance of seeing all the plans, including the electrical plan, so that these points can be picked up. In one instance, light switches had been placed 3 feet along a wall and the repositioning caused a six week delay in getting shelving installed on one wall.

The Lyner building is basically a metal cage and this has proved a problem for the security gate.

 

Post Occupancy: Changes Made As A Result Of Feedback

 

The College is waiting for the building to be in use for a year before any changes. A feedback survey is in the process of being produced for users - it will take the form of a paper-based and an electronic survey and users will be given a choice of which one they'd rather complete. The paper-based survey will be distributed via the in-house HE students' bulletin and in the public and social spaces within the College. When users log on to the intranet there will be information on access to the survey. Early informal feedback is that more PCs are required and the College is looking into additional provision.

 

Contact details:  Liz Fisher lizf@trurocollege.ac.uk