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Portakabin completes ambitious hybrid modular building project


The Global Academy is the UK’s first university technical college built offsite

Portakabin has successfully delivered the Global Academy, a £16m state-of-the-art hybrid modular building. It is the UK’s first University Technical College (UTC) to be built offsite.

The Global Academy is a state school for 14-19 year olds, founded and sponsored by Global, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment groups. The school prepares students for careers in the broadcast and digital media industry, offering academic and vocational training to help them succeed in the real world.  The Global Academy was officially opened by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

Supported by The Department for Education, the Global Academy will teach 800 students every year by 2020.

Engineered and built by Portakabin and designed with architects Surface to Air, the 8,700m2 school has a forward-thinking design which reflects the creative ethos of the new school. The newly-built school is on the site of the Old Vinyl Factory, once the EMI headquarters, in Hayes in West London. 

Advanced offsite technology seamlessly integrates both modular and site-based building solutions. A significant proportion of the project’s construction was completed at the Portakabin production centre in York to meet the challenging timescale.

The Global Academy has an iconic, futuristic design which has created an inspiring environment for learning. A spectacular roof-lit central atrium provides a dynamic circulation space and focal point for the college. There is a sculptural feature staircase and a high level of glazing to the classrooms. The colour pallet is bold and expressive with strong graphics. Anodised aluminium mesh cladding encloses the north and south elevations from first floor to roof level with areas of full height glazing around the ground floor.

This technically-complex building was designed to deliver a demanding acoustic specification for the broadcast areas, with triple glazing and specially-engineered air conditioning. Media and lighting have been integrated into the highly glazed west façade which can be illuminated during live broadcasts from the building.

Commenting on the building, Will Harding, Global Academy’s Chair of Governors, said, “The building makes a real impression on everyone, and the students and teachers very much enjoy the facilities. The design has created a fantastic learning environment for our students. Thanks to Portakabin, we achieved an ambitious building programme in less than a year.”

Derek Carter, Chief Executive of Portakabin said, “This is a really exciting regeneration scheme which has created a landmark education facility offering young people fantastic practical training to get them ready for careers in media. It demonstrates how an advanced offsite solution from Portakabin can realise an outstanding building design which successfully integrates different methods of construction. It also illustrates our team’s ability to regenerate a highly constrained and very challenging brownfield site to deliver an inspiring building and in less than 12 months. This is an amazing achievement.”

Heidi Moxon, Design Director at Surface to Air Architects, said, “Global has a strong brand and ethos – something we were keen to incorporate in our design methodology. Various aspects of the design, including elements of the façade, are a nod to Global’s musical heritage and the site’s Old Vinyl Factory roots, creating a cool, contemporary warehouse vibe. There are some other unique features, including a dynamic sculptural staircase and full-height glazing in the classrooms. The overall result was a marriage between workplace, technology and youthful trends – a vibrant, expressive, bold colour pallet, punchy graphics and an animated façade helped Global achieve its pedagogical vision.”

This high specification scheme was constructed by Portakabin as Principal Contractor. The site was constrained with only four metres between the boundary and the new building, and required complex groundworks, extensive excavations for district heating, and the construction of a new electricity sub-station.

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