Restoring the fabric of Grade 2 Listed Bedford Sixth Form in Bromham Road from a Victorian building into a modern, sustainable, decarbonated property suitable for delivering a 21st Century education has been a challenge for The Bedford College Group.
The Bedford Sixth Form, located on the former Bedford Girls’ High School and opened a decade ago, faced the immediate challenge of installing telecommunications to support site-wide internet connections, repairing the fabric of the building, making improvements such the modern resource centre and upgrading the leisure facilities.
The school’s swimming pool, sports hall and theatre were made suitable for the general public to access. The old chapel building was transformed into a restaurant/eating area with classrooms on the upper floors. The Grand Hall had to be restored so it could be rented out of hours for weddings and events.
Now an even bolder step has been made with the help of £6 Million in grants awarded to the Group, of which The Bedford Sixth Form is part of. The old building has undergone innovative improvements by Ashe Construction since January 2022.
The existing archaic heating system was stripped out along with old gas boilers and cast iron pipework. In their place come two giant air source pumps (ASHP) which will heat the whole building, supported by modern insulation methods including secondary glazing enabling leaded windows to be kept. Also kept in place were the decorative radiators in The Grand Hall which were taken off site, power-cleaned, restored and put back.
Peter Gibson, who has worked his way up his current role from an apprentice carpenter, said:
“Working on old buildings brings special trials. Trying to maintain the historic integrity of a building while reaching Net Zero Carbon targets is a 21st Century challenge.
“In addition we were working in a live environment with two weddings booked into The Grand Hall going ahead, one with a horse and carriage which had to come on to site, whilst we completed critical work.
“In one case we literally finished off the flooring the night before the wedding. The trick is for the building to look as though we haven’t been here – that applies to all 60 rooms which required new wiring, and in some cases insulation and secondary windows.
“One of the highlights was pulling up old carpet to find fantastic herring bone wooden floors which we sanded and restored.
“We put electric underfloor heating in the original wood-lined library and opened up a whole new corridor to do away with some of the labyrinth of walkways which had developed as the original school was added to since it opened in 1882.”
John-Paul Cain M & E Design Consultant from Panda CES Ltd, who came up with the mechanical and electrical solutions to the build said:
“Opportunities to insulate were difficult, but the architect specified natural breathable roof insulation in the old parts of the building, high performance flat roof insulation to the older parts and secondary glazing that complied with Heritage guidance.
“In The Grand Hall we had to utilise existing radiators which were not compatible with the new system so a high temperature heat pump system was developed with Daikin manufacturers that boosted the 45 c water up to 70 c to ensure the high ceilinged area stays warm.
“A new district heating pipework system was installed across the site, complete with new internal pipework and ASHP compatible heat-emitters throughout.”
Keeping the project green, Ashe Construction used the very latest electric machines to undertake some of the building work, including a Brokk Demolition Robot to smash through old concrete.
The Bedford College Group Project Manager Mark Eustace said:
“This has been a wonderful investment in a Victorian building, we have retained the beauty and heritage of the site whilst installing the very latest eco- technologies which supports our target of being Net Zero Carbon.”
CEO of The Bedford College Group Ian Pryce CBE said:
“Our key focus is always a better experience for students, but if the use of green technologies means we use less energy, then that means more money can go towards our students.”
This work is part of £6.9 Million investment in upgrades and improvements made to The Bedford Sixth Form which is celebrating its 10th anniversary .