Consett Academy

The construction of Consett Academy and Leisure Centre is one of the many large scale regeneration schemes to have taken place in Consett. Completed in 2015, steel played a vital role in its development. Consett has a long and illustrious connection to the steel industry, as for more than 140 years the town was one of the world’s most important steelmaking centres, providing the material for the Blackpool Tower and the UK’s early nuclear submarines.

Sadly in 1980 the steelworks closed down, followed by the local coal mines, heralding the end of heavy industry in this part of County Durham.

The Consett Academy replaces and brings together students from two existing colleges, providing a new home to 1,700 students. The Leisure Centre replaces an old facility that was located close by. As well as being part of the academy during school hours, the leisure centre will open to the public at other times.

How it started

The school and leisure centre are two distinctive facilities, but both are part of one large steel framed structure, measuring more than 177m long x 51m wide. Each facility will have its own main entrance at either end of the building.

With such a long facility a steel solution was the ideal choice and it also reflected the steel heritage of the town. The dividing line for the two facilities splits the steel frame in half and was the best location for an integral expansion joint, needed for such a long frame.

What we did

Structurally the building is a steel braced frame utilising the diaphragm action of the slab for overall stability. The steel frame uses around 900t of structural sections.

The academy’s steelwork is predominantly based around a 7.5m grid pattern with intermediate secondary beams spaced at 3.75m centres. The steel frame supports composite deck profiles for the flooring.

The three-storey high academy includes a triple height central entrance hall and atrium that is one of the main features of the building running nearly the full length of the academy, a ground floor double height hall and drama studio. The classrooms are located either side of the central space.

Around 230t of cellular beams were used for service integration and efficiency. Spanning the entrance hall and atrium, the cellular beams up to 17m long are painted white for aesthetic reasons. The beams have been left exposed within the completed building and support roof lights and provide a light, bright atrium.

On the opposite side of the expansion joint, the leisure centre is a two-storey high frame, mostly taken up by two large double height areas that accommodate the aquatics zone and a sports hall. As the site incorporates a sloping elevation, the leisure centre’s ground floor joins the academy’s first floor - excavation work helped create a basement area for the leisure centre to accommodate gymnasiums and swimming pools.

About one third of the leisure centre accommodates the aquatic zone which contains two swimming pools, one 25m long and the other 20m long. Creating the open spaces for the pools are two rows of 12m high CHS tree columns, each with four tubular branches that support the rafters. These feature columns are spaced to create internal spans of 10m, 6m and 16m in the aquatics centre.

The more traditional design for the leisure centre’s sports hall has been formed by a series of spliced 35m long beams spaced at 7.5m centres.