A brand new campus developed on a greenfield site in Livingston, procured through PFI by trading in the former college site, was the best way to offer West Lothian College real value for money. HBG Construction and architect RMJM Scotland explain how they accommodated both traditional and high-tech styles – as well as students

<B><font size=”+1”>West Lothian College</font></b><B>Project</b>
Further and higher education college for some 2000 full-time-equivalent students
Livingston, West Lothian, Scotland
PFI contract to design, construct, finance and manage facilities over 25 years
<B>PFI highlights</b>
College’s existing site exchanged for lower PFI charges
<B>Building design highlights</b>

  • Accommodation separated into pavilions for adaptability
  • Self-contained services within each building for flexibility of use

<B>Design-and-build cost</b>
£17.8m for 14,867 m2 gross internal floor area
£1196/ m2, including design fees
<B>Construction period</b>
72 weeks

<B><font size=”+1”>Client’s brief</font></b>
West Lothian College, the public sector sponsor of the project, planned to expand its role as a key training institute in West Lothian to accommodate a total of 2000 full-time-equivalent students. As part of its business case for physical expansion, the college considered two options:

  • Developing a split-site college by remaining at its existing base in Bathgate and developing a new satellite facility in the former New Town of Livingston.
  • Procuring a brand new, purpose-built, single-site campus in Livingston.

It was quickly decided that the single-site campus offered the best option to develop the college, meet the increasing demand for further and higher education in Livingston and provide training for a highly skilled, flexible workforce demanded by local and regional manufacturing companies. In the long term it was the only option that offered overall value for money.
The college already owned the nine-hectare greenfield site in Livingston where it is now located. Its vision was for a new campus as an “education park” that other education partners and businesses could share, reflecting the evolution of the technical college into a partial community college. Flexibility of use with access for all was key.
The college’s main growth areas were identified as skills and management training for local technology-based companies, vocational education and the traditional community college role. Consequently, the campus design evolved with the twin focus of traditional further education and business. This was set against the backcloth of rapid change in educational methodologies and information and communications technology.

<B><font size=”+1”>PFI procurement</font></b>
The college’s first attempts to directly develop its Livingston site were unsuccessful, as feasibility studies proved too expensive to build and no planning permission was granted. In 1996, the college advertised for PFI bidders to design, construct, finance and manage facilities for the college for 25 years. Facilities management included cleaning, catering, site management and full fabric and ground maintenance.
A 25-year contract was eventually awarded to HBG Projects, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Dutch-owned contractor HBG Construction, dedicated to securing and operating PFI projects. HBG Projects has established a substantial track record in PFI projects, including one of the UK’s first PFI hospitals in Ayrshire, three new courts, a divisional police HQ and a contract for five schools in Peacehaven, East Sussex.
For West Lothian College, the special project vehicle set up by HBG Projects subcontracted the design and construction work to HBG Construction. Private funding was procured from the Bank of Scotland, with additional funding from the European Regional Development Fund and Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh & Lothians.
Almost from the outset, the college faced a significant affordability problem, which was exacerbated by delays to bidding and negotiation caused mainly by the 1997 general election. To overcome this, the college offered its site in Bathgate as part of the transaction, and in return HBG guaranteed a substantial reduction in the charges to the college. In the spirit of partnership, a deal was struck that ensured the college would retain a share of any development profits realised in the Bathgate site. Gap funding support came from the Scottish Further Education Funding Council on behalf of the Scottish Executive.

<B><font size=”+1”>Design and construction</font></b>
As part of the PFI bidding process, RMJM Scotland, HBG’s design consultant, drew up a design for the campus from scratch. Planning approval was secured at preferred bidder stage.
RMJM’s design solution was to provide a cluster of buildings dedicated to different markets and functions and gathered around a central social focus. The design also attempted to minimise future risk through versatile and modular buildings, which are marketable for other purposes.
The design for the 14,867 m2 complex features four main pavilions, four terraced buildings, a large central learning resource centre and a sports hall. All the buildings, except for one terrace, are two storeys in height, and all are gathered symmetrically around a landscaped central courtyard with seating areas, trees and a water feature. Outside this core of buildings is further landscaping, an avenue of elm trees, and some 56,000 bulbs and shrubs. There is parking for about 350 cars in seven areas surrounding the site.
The new buildings provide a sense of place, with a strong feeling of human scale reflecting a village or community setting – a place where people will want to be. The creation of several building types enabled them to be fitted into the existing parkland features of the greenfield site. Additional space is available on campus for college expansion or associated “partner” development.
The campus design brought other benefits:

  • Different types of buildings that lend themselves to the varied and changing accommodation and teaching needs of the college, while business-related and community uses are segregated.
  • Two-storey pavilions that are configured to suit the environmental and servicing requirements of the new sunrise industries, computer and electronic industry departments.
  • Individual buildings that can be expanded or readily adapted to serve different functions.
  • Ability to alter the internal partitions on a 1.5 m planning grid without materially affecting the buildings’ structure or external envelope.

The buildings’ external walls attempt to reflect the college’s twin focus of tradition and innovation by combining brickwork ground floors with lightweight glass and panel upper floors. Each building type elaborates the theme in a different variation.
The roofs are low curved barrel vaults with standing seam claddings, punctuated by glazed circulation/service towers accessed from the central social space. The new campus incorporates a number of attractive landscaped areas; a central college square, south-facing college gardens, protected pavilion courtyards and perimeter landscaped parking areas.
Modern, purpose-built facilities located close to the developing and rapidly expanding town centre of Livingston provide an environment that the college hopes will help it increase its intake and secure greater business and community involvement in the college and its curriculum. The local area should also benefit from spin-off opportunities for employment and investment attracted by the college.
The new college has already delivered success – student intake has jumped by 62% since the campus opened in August 1996.

<B><font size=”+1”>Structural design</font></b>
Sustainability, environmental, flexibility and buildability targets, within the cost plan and lifecycle costs framework, influenced the structure’s design and resulted in the following initiatives:

  • A cut/fill balance ensuring that all excavated materials were retained on site.
  • Optimal use of existing landform to accommodate roads, parking and building plots.
  • Significant attenuation and treatment of surface water run-off generated by the development before its discharge at a controlled rate into the River Almond.
  • Incorporation of wildlife-friendly elements in the bridge crossings to the adjacent watercourse.
  • A travel plan to restrain car usage and encourage the use of other modes of travel.
  • Direct link into the existing bicycle network.
  • A perimeter buffer zone between the college buildings and the general public and adjacent developments.
  • Standardisation of structural members, components and assembly across all buildings.
  • Review of alternative construction materials and systems.
  • A structural system that allowed roof construction and external cladding to take place early on to obtain weathertight status for the follow-on trades.

<B><font size=”+1”>Sustainability</font></b>
The main structural and external envelope elements were designed to achieve a 60-year life expectancy. Energy efficiency measures contribute to this and ensure that the building has few adverse influences on its environment. Such measures include:

  • Use of passive and low-energy design approach, based on computational thermal analyses
  • Installation of automatic controls for cold water, hot water and natural gas
  • Low temperature water heating, ventilation, and internal and external lighting
  • Electronic building management system that includes a maintenance software package
  • Independent services for each building. This saves on the capital cost of underground ducts and heating pipes and reduces heat losses from external heating mains and electrical consumption required to pump heating water over long distances. It also gives flexibility of use, allowing buildings to be sub-let if required.
  • Natural ventilation and lighting,with mechanical cooling restricted to computer server rooms and the like
  • Mechanical ventilation, where unavoidable, provided by displacement systems and incorporating heat recovery wheels and space for retrofitting cooling coils to cater for changing uses and occupancy
  • Energy-efficient lighting
  • Local controls for heating and lighting with overall management provided by a building management system.

In addition, an environment friendly rainwater drainage system was installed.
The Ecoloc paviour system, which allows free drainage into the subsoil, was specified.
In exceptionally heavy rainfall, emergency drainage takes the water into a holding pond on the site for gradual release into an adjacent burn.

<B><font size=”+1”>Procurement</font></b>
A design-and-build contract (Scottish Building Contract with Contractors Design August 1998 Revision) was adopted. Work started on site at the end of January 2000 and was completed in July 2001, a construction period of 72 weeks – on time and within budget. Before that, the period from financial close to construction was just 12 weeks.
Fast-track construction design detailing allowed early completion of the external envelopes, and a similar approach to the eaves construction meant that the roof coverings and gutters could be completed before external cladding. Individual designs and types of building across the campus enabled construction of different buildings to progress in parallel.