SGS College provides high-quality education across the South West. Social mobility is at the core of its mission, aiming to add social and economic value to the communities it affects. To do this, students must feel inspired to stay in education, through campuses that feel like vibrant, working environments as opposed to traditional schools.
The Brunel Centre was conceived as a demonstra*on of these principles. It rejects conven*onal ideas of how a school should look, feel and func*on, focusing instead on flexible spaces that support modern working prac*ce. Wellbeing and sustainability are integral to the design, with the aim of crea*ng a healthy, inspiring building; good to its users and good to the planet.
Transparency is key to the building’s concept, ditching traditional notions of ‘closed-off’ classrooms in favour of a vibrant learning community. At the heart of this is an open atrium, populated by informal work areas. All the building’s circulation converges in this space, while large panes of glazing connect views of rooms across it. A second func*on is *ed to passive deign principles; namely ventila*on and light. High-level windows automa*cally draw air through the atrium to regulate the internal temperature and CO2 levels. Those same windows bring natural light into the centre of the building and – paired with high levels of glazing elsewhere – create a fresh and bright environment.
Cross-laminated timber (CLT) sets a calming tone throughout the interior; its tactile surfaces ever-present in walls, soffits, stairs and beams. These surfaces have been designed with wellbeing in mind, improving concentra*on and reducing stress. As well as sequestering 270 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere, the light-weight structure allowed a reduc*on in the slab and founda*on sizes (compared to steel and concrete construc*on), cutting the associated embodied carbon. On site there were
significant programma*c benefits, with a small team erec*ng it in just six weeks.
The building’s services are entirely electric, anticipating the Na*onal Grid’s decarbonisa*on and ensuring the building is “smart grid ready”, in line with plans for solar arrays on the campus’ exis*ng buildings. This is referenced in the building’s photovoltaic brise soleil; sculptural ‘wings’ that showcase these aspira*ons, while nodding to the area’s world-leading avia*on heritage.
Funded entirely through WECA’s (West of England Combined Authority) Local Growth Fund, the Brunel Centre was supported by a significant investment of public money. As a result, the building’s narrative punches well above its weight. It sets a
benchmark, proving that tight budgetary constraints are no excuse for failing to deliver high-quality, sustainable architecture.
On every level, then, the Brunel Centre is true to its agenda of social and environmental sustainability:
– On a national level, it demonstrates an aspira*onal use of public funding – furthering the South West’s leading role in these areas.
– On a regional level, it supports SGS College’s social mission while symbolising future commitments to the environment.
– On a human level, it offers healthy and inspiring spaces where future genera*ons can further their educa*onal goals.