Understanding the challenges Esh Group faced when building cutting-edge STEM centres

Setting up well-equipped environments that can accommodate hands-on teaching techniques, but being able to do so on small budgets is a challenge in STEM provision that Further Education institutions throughout the UK must address.

One potential solution to this challenge could be intelligent construction. Take Esh Group, for example. A leading construction company in the North of England, Central and Southern Scotland, they use value engineering to assess the materials, systems and design of a building project so that they can find where efficiencies can be realised. The firm may be able to use this methodology to find specialist glazing materials that can retain heat and save on energy costs in the long-term, for instance, or establish where an alternative wall finishing can be applied in a manner that will save a project thousands of pounds.

Why are STEM centres proving appealing?

Esh Group engages the workforce of tomorrow and looks to develop the skill sets which will be necessary for those looking into careers linked to Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics through their Get into STEM kits.

However, this is not the only area where the construction company excels in relation to STEM. Many colleges have chosen to build dedicated STEM centres to meet the demands of employers, and the Government’s Industrial Strategy, with Esh Group building STEM centres at Middlesbrough College and Northumberland College’s Ashington Campus alone.

The firm also factors in that educational facilities need to be identified as a focal point for communities when constructing STEM centres, not to mention being designed in a manner that will provide everyone making use of it with a stimulating, safe and sustainable environment. As such, they always consult closely with clients, pupils, teachers and the community to shape the vision of the new environment and meet the needs of future generations.

Tips for designing and constructing STEM centres

An adaptable space for teaching facilities and workshops is usually a requirement for many education providers. For Northumberland College’s STEM centre in Ashington, for example, Esh Group installed a galvanised steel trench in the workshop area. This allows the college to adapt the room layout, move equipment and store power and data cables securely. The also fitted a moveable wall within the building, which can be opened up to create double-height workshop areas.

There’s a good chance that a STEM centre will be constructed nearby a college campus that is bustling with activity. As such, it’s important not to disrupt the smooth working of the institution. On recent builds, Esh Group considered this point and separated the site using Heras fencing and ensured clear signage is in place.

If there’s to be shared road access leading up to the construction site, it is strongly advised that a traffic flow system is set up too. Site vehicles should drive fully onto site, with materials being delivered on a ‘just in time’ basis and stored in a dedicated lay down area.

Will your STEM centre be built with two storeys or more? Then working at height must be factored in as well — the Health and Safety Executive has a raft of handy advice about this topic in this guide. Toolbox talks should be provided to every individual on site too, not to mention thorough risk assessments and method statements created to ensure everybody is safe and secure throughout the entire development.

As a STEM centre will be providing world-class sector-based education to pupils, don’t forget the need to factor specialist equipment into your design. As part of building a STEM centre at Middlesbrough College, Esh Group produced a real-life lean manufacturing facility which included a robotic-controlled production line. The centre now replicates typical industrial environments and includes fully-functional chemical and oil processes, which are monitored and operated from a high-tech control room. The construction company also installed specialist science and technology workshops, including dedicated ‘fab labs’ where budding product designers and entrepreneurs can access the latest in digital fabrication equipment for prototyping.

 

 

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