Topping out ceremony - with a twist

THE development of the Ipswich “education quarter” took another step forward today with a topping out ceremony at the Suffolk New College site. The £69million project involves the construction of nearly 22,000 square metres of teaching and learning space to replace the outdated facilities nearby of what was formerly known as Suffolk College.

THE development of the Ipswich “education quarter” took another step forward today with a topping out ceremony at the Suffolk New College site.

The £69million project involves the construction of nearly 22,000 square metres of teaching and learning space to replace the outdated facilities nearby of what was formerly known as Suffolk College.

All the vocational and occupational Further Education courses offered by the college will be accommodated within the new site off Rope Walk, which is due to open in September 2009, together with the teaching of A-levels for adults.

The building - which has the appearance of a two-storey structure viewed from street level but rises to four storeys further into the site - consists to two main blocks, one built around a central triangular atrium which will provide a social space for the complex, a food court, a learning space with computers and publicly accessible exhibition space.

It has been designed by architects Sheppard Robson to accommodate predicted growth in student numberms from 3,135 full-time equivalents (FTE) this year to 3,500 FTE in 2011-12. The modern design of the building is expected to deliver a saving of at least 15% in year in terms of running costs.

Main contractor Morgan Ashurst is on target to hand over the completed building early in July next year, with college staff then having the rest of the summer to prepare the building for the start of the 2009-10 academic year.

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In a - literal - twist on the traditional topping out ceremony, yesterday's formalities, performed by the May of Ipswich, David Hale, involved not the laying of the final brick or tile but the tightening of the final bolt.

The new building is part of an overall project to create an innovative Education Quarter in Ipswich incorporating Suffolk New College and University Campus Suffolk, whose main building is currently under construction on the town's waterfront.

College principal Dave Müller said yesterday: “This will be a fabulous facility for Further Education. With the University Campus Suffolk development nearby, it will be outstanding.”