09 July 2021
The Deaf Academy
Customer: Exeter Deaf Academy Trading Ltd
Duration: 18 months
Completion Date: August 2020
Contract Type: JCT Design & Build 2016
Procurement Type: Negotiated
- CCS scores 40/50 and 42/50
- Shortlisted – ‘Project of the Year (over £5 million)’ and ‘Education Project of the Year’, Michelmores Property Awards (results 04.11.2021)
- Shortlisted – ‘Community Impact of the Year’, AJ100 Awards 2021 (Architects’ Journal, results 22.09.2021)
- Shortlisted – ‘Client of the Year', 'Inspiring Learning Spaces', 'Project of the Year (Schools)', 'Inclusive Learning Spaces for all', 'and 'Pupil/Student Experience', Education Estates Awards (results 12.10.21)
Midas completed the design and build of a teaching facility and three-storey student accommodation block, and refurbishment of a theatre in Exmouth. The new site enabled Exeter Deaf Academy to relocate and expand their school, in a site conveniently close to the beach and the train station. The Academy supports young people who are Deaf or have hearing loss, with a range of different learning abilities.
The Academy is designed and constructed with end users in mind, focusing on student safety and providing a sensory learning space. Inspired by DeafSpace architecture, the building contains bespoke features including extra-wide corridors that curve, a mezzanine with panoramic windows and rooflights, and highly reflective kitchen wall surfaces, to ensure the environment supports their learning and accommodates their needs.
The home economics room features fully adjustable desks that can be raised, lowered and angled; kitchens have a highly reflective coating on splashbacks and wall surfaces, so people using sinks or work stations can see people behind them. All corridors and structural features are curved, to prevent corners and improve sightlines and visibility; the corridors are over three metres wide to accommodate groups walking and signing together; and all radiators are recessed into the walls so people walking past and signing won’t strike their hands. All staircases have double handrails to ensure smaller children can use them safely; and all balustrading is in excess of 1.5 metres high, to reduce the risk of falls or jumping from height, to meet the Academy’s safety requirements. The buildings include lifts; all sinks and washbasins are positioned at a lower height for wheelchair users; and all spaces maximise natural light.
The project includes an immersive room, with special lighting and projection technology, to provide a sensory learning experience for children with special needs. Projections are interactive and can be set to different displays – underwater, forest, surface of the moon and others – that change as people move through the room to give the impression of falling leaves, dust rising from footsteps on the moon and others to suit the set theme.
The client made safety their paramount concern, and Midas exceeded our duty of care requirements to deliver a project that is fully Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) compliant. The works included construction of the steel frame Academy building, the traditional build of the residential block and alterations and refurbishment of the Owen Building theatre. The residential block, Rolle House, contains 45 apartments in eight clusters, with a kitchen diner and living room for each apartment, communal spaces on the ground floor and a house manager's office and staff facilities.
Midas worked through the wettest winter on record and global pandemic to deliver the building on time and on price, completing extensive best value reviews with the client to achieve their constrained budget. Externally, Midas formed a multi-use games area, rubber crumb outdoor play area, playing fields and sports pitches, with car parking, infrastructure and hard and soft landscaping.
Midas supported stakeholder engagement and access, including showing prospective donors around the site, hosting a Governors' visit, and supporting the 'World of Work Week' by demonstrating the range of career options available in construction.
The Senior Project Manager attended public meetings and the resident’s committee to discuss issues and advise on the programme; offered work experience, mentoring, permanent placements and apprenticeships both on this site and at other local Midas sites; and, where appropriate, programmed site activities to ensure the best use of time and to ensure a full range of work experience.
The Avenue Residents Association (TARA) wrote to the Considerate Constructors Scheme to compliment the Midas team on their works with the community and the way they managed the site, and the Senior Project Manager attended their Annual General Meeting in September 2019. Seven students, two interpreters and four staff from Exeter Deaf Academy visited the site in May 2019, and sent the team a thank you card after the event. At the end of the project, Midas donated the gateman’s shed to the Academy, who now use it to store their sports equipment.
The site hosted a contractors’ signage board, with all proceeds going to the Deaf Academy, and raised £2,850.