A NEW state-of-the-art education facility at a Basingstoke college is taking shape – and it’s a real green machine.

When the first students walk into the new £13million science block at Queen Mary’s College next year, they will be working in a building designed to minimise its impact on the environment.

The Gazette was invited to tour the impressive new building taking shape at the college’s Cliddesden Road campus with principal Stephen Sheedy and Ron Wakeford, project manager for construction firm Rok.

Mr Sheedy said: “The primary purpose is to improve accommodation that is worn out. The existing science block is 35 or 36 years old now.

“That will be knocked down when this comes online. It’s a massive improvement to a good third of our estate. The aim is to bring everything up to prime condition – state-of-the-art stuff.”

Mr Wakeford said the new building would have 12 solar panels on the roof, generating some of the energy needed for the building, and special sunlight shields called brise-soleil are being installed to keep temperatures down, reducing the need for air conditioning.

The 21st century block also has vents and small solar-powered fans designed to allow a natural circulation of air. Rainwater landing on the block will be captured and stored underground before being recycled to flush the toilets.

Energy use in the building – and on the various floors within it – can be measured via the college’s impressive computer network, and teachers will be able to use their laptops to control their classroom’s temperature.

The block’s western side is a curved wall of glass, shielded by the brise-soleil, while the straight eastern side is a mix of cedar cladding, a red wall render and traditional block and brick.

A centrepiece of the building is an impressive glass-topped atrium with the classrooms coming off it – science rooms on one side, flexible teaching spaces on the other, plus rooms specially designed for about 70 college students with learning difficulties and disabilities.

The scheme has been progressing well and is expected to be delivered “on target and on budget”, said the project manager.

Mr Wakeford, who has been in the construction business for 45 years, praised Mr Sheedy’s enthusiasm for the scheme, and added: “This is the best project of my career.”

The building should be handed over to the college on December 8 and will be officially opened by scientist Professor Jim Al-Khalili, from Surrey University, before Easter. Students are expected to move in during the spring 2010 term.

The building was supposed to be phase one of a larger four-part £32million project to rebuild the college, which will take in about 2,350 students next year.

But the remaining phases have been thrown into doubt because the Learning and Skills Council, the Govern-ment body providing much of the funding, has run out of money.

However, Mr Sheedy is still upbeat. “We will find a way of doing something,” he said.

“The Government has spent £2.3billion on improving the education estate. I’m pleased that Queen Mary’s has got something significant out of it.”