Construction firm builds learning environments for future generations 

A modern school building with the words Paxman Academy on

Paxman Academy in Colchester is the largest project Barnes has completed under the Essex County Council framework - Credit: Clare Banks Photography

Sue Wilcock speaks to Mark Hart, joint managing director at Barnes Construction on one of the business’s key sectors, education. 

Barnes Construction is proud to be playing its part in shaping the region’s education sector. 

As Mark Hart explains: “It is very rewarding to be building the establishments which will enable the education and development of our future generations, helping them to learn and progress to have full and satisfying careers.” 

Over the last four decades, the company has completed projects for both local authorities and private sector education providers across the region. Contracts have ranged in value from £250,000 to over £20 million and typical projects undertaken have included new builds, refurbishments and extensions for primary schools, high schools, colleges and universities. 

The standard of its work has not only won Barnes Construction a steady stream of contracts but has also secured the business several awards and accreditations. 

A man wearing a blue suit jacket, blue and white striped shirt and red tie with white spots on

Mark Hart, joint MD, Barnes Construction - Credit: Paul Nixon Photography

“Our portfolio of successfully completed projects, combined with our experience, has meant that we have been able to further develop our work in this sector,” Mr Hart continues. 

“We understand that functionality, as well as sustainability, are key elements of good construction. We feel we are playing our part in ensuring the great advances that have been made in the way that schools are designed and built, are maintained. 

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“The way the buildings will look, be used and how flexible the spaces are, so they can be adapted for different uses, are main considerations,” Mr Hart adds. “Therefore, working collaboratively with all stakeholders are pre-requisites to ensuring what we build enhances both the facilities on offer within the local community, and the landscape of the area the building sits in.” 

Another way that Barnes has developed its work in the education sector is geographically. 

“Our relationship with Suffolk County Council is perhaps the longest standing when it comes to education. We have carried out projects since the 1990s and we have been listed on its Construction Framework since 2005,” Mr Hart says. 

“Past schemes are numerous and include the new secondary schools; Sybil Andrews Academy in Bury St Edmunds and Pakefield High School in Lowestoft. And at the moment we are over halfway through building a new school for Thurston Primary Academy, so it can relocate and double student capacity.” 

Essex County Council is another longstanding client and Barnes has delivered many contracts under its framework status. Currently, it is working on extending teaching facilities at Lawford Church of England Primary School near Manningtree, and work has just finished on an extension to West Hatch High School in Chigwell, as well as the brand-new Lakelands Primary School at Stanway. It also completed its largest project with Essex County Council when, in June 2019, it handed over Paxman Academy in Colchester. 

Further afield, Barnes is now working with clients in North London and recent projects include Marshalls Park near Romford for London Borough of Havering and Jo Richardson and Robert Clack Schools in Dagenham for the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham. 

Moving over to the west of the region and 14 years ago, Barnes won its first major contract in Cambridge when it was commissioned to build The Kavli building for the Institute for Cosmology for the University of Cambridge. 

“Since then, we have become a well-established contractor with a history of involvement in diverse, high-profile projects in the city,” says Mr Hart. 

University, college and school schemes carried out have included remodelling and refurbishment projects for Christ’s College, Robinson College and Hughes Hall. 

Recently completed projects include a new auditorium and library at Ann’s Court for Selwyn College, as well as remodelling and extending student accommodation at The Old Garden Hostel for King’s College. And current projects include a new dining hall for Homerton College, the new WongAvery Music Gallery at Trinity Hall, and the refurbishment and extension of the River Wing and North Passage at Old Court for Clare College. 

Yet, one of the projects that Barnes is most pleased about is the recent award of the contract to create a new health and wellbeing quarter at the University of Suffolk. 

“This scheme complements and combines our already extensive experience of working in the education and health sectors. Mr Hart comments. 

“As an Ipswich-based employer, we are very pleased to be involved in a project in the heart of our hometown, which not only enhances educational opportunities locally, but also supports the recruitment requirements of the NHS and other healthcare providers.” 

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