National College for High Speed Rail

A hub for large scale commercial and retail businesses

Project Details

  • Scheme & Version: New Construction 2014 Education
  • Stage: Post Construction
  • Location: Doncaster, UK
  • Score & Rating: 77.6% Excellent
  • Certificate Number: BREEAM-0071-9245
  • BREEAM Award Winner 2019

Project Team

  • Client/ Developer: Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council
  • Assessor Company: AES Sustainability Consultants Ltd
  • Project Manager / Principal Contractor: Willmott Dixon
  • Architect: Bond Bryan Architects
  • Building Services: Briggs & Forrester

Why did this building undergo BREEAM Certification?

The project brings a contemporary design to a commercial teaching environment and was heavily influenced by the Customers’ vision to create a world class facility and landmark building. The brief was delivered by designing a mixture of external and internal engineering teaching areas, along with flexible project spaces and traditional teaching rooms providing a dynamic learning environment for engineering and digital learning.

The project is sited within Lakeside on the outskirts of Doncaster which is quickly becoming a hub for large scale commercial and retail businesses. The design complements the neighbouring call centres by taking inspiration from Doncaster’s historical railway heritage with linearity and visibility being two key design themes.
The building is 113m long x 40m wide with both ends comprising of full height structural glazing providing maximum visibility into the facility. The roof is the defining feature which takes inspiration from a traditional saw-tooth roof, a modern interpretation of the rail engineering shed roofs but with an additional vertical section that provides walkways, north facing roof lights, solar panels and a 930m2 area of flat roof for plant.

The workshop facilitating a full-size locomotive is to be celebrated and therefore the accommodation of atrium, class/conference rooms and external teaching areas encapsulate the workshop with large spans of glazing giving maximum visibility and connectivity within.

With a complex structure of key stakeholder’s including the end user (National College High Speed Rail and contract Customer Doncaster Council) collaboration was key in delivering the project on time (74 weeks) and on budget to the Customer’s full satisfaction with minimal defects.

With a 1045 designed occupancy, the curriculum has been developed to benefit post 18 year olds whilst also upskilling or re-training existing rail workers. The college will boost the local economy whilst also injecting a new generation of skilled employees into the market place.

Overview of Green Strategy and Environmental Features

The building has a number of key features using innovative technologies which allowed the building to score highly across most of the BREEAM issues. The designs took a balanced approach with the intention to achieve more than 60% of the available credits in each issue. The design team exceeded this target in all but 1 issue, going beyond in some areas such as Water scoring 100% of all available credits. The building also pushed the boundaries and achieved 40% of the available innovation credits most notably Hea 02 Indoor Air Quality and Wst 05 Adaption to Climate Change.

With a strong focus on energy reduction as well as health and wellbeing of occupants, the following key features formed the basis of the success of this building in these areas:

The heating and ventilation systems across the entirety of the building have been developed and adapted to ensure a high efficiency. A fully integrated and interactive heat recovery system was provided via the thermal wheel for the main teaching areas. This provides high efficiency heat recovery to increase internal comfort with individual Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) from Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHP) trimming the room environment. The mechanical ventilation incorporates Demand Control Ventilation (DCV) in the form of modulating dampers based on carbon dioxide sensors.

The building is heated by a combination of highly efficient gas fired plant, ASHP providing Low Temperature Hot Water (LTHW) and Combined Heat and Power (CHP) unit, all of which are individually metered and monitored through the Building Management System (BMS). The heat distribution is delivered to the spaces as follows:

Underfloor Heating to Reception areas, Informal Learning, Viewing Gallery and Refectory.

  • Radiators to WCs and changing rooms.
  • ASHP to classrooms and meeting rooms
  • Radiant Heaters to the workshop
  • All Air System to the kitchen.

Ventilation systems were carefully planned and designed to ensure high levels of thermal comfort and fresh air as well as energy efficiency. The ventilation strategy is as follows:

The main workshop area is ventilated using a 40m long natural ventilation louvre. The louvre is fully actuated and controlled by automatic actuators.

The reception and communal areas are naturally ventilated via opening windows on the façade and in the roof lights. These are controlled through internal temperature sensors with automated blinds on the façade and roof lights to provide solar shading controlled automatically with manual override.

The main teaching areas are ventilated, heated and cooled by a fully packaged Air Handling Unit (AHU) which then serves VRF units for optimum comfort. These also benefit from automated blinds to the glazing to provide solar shading.

The building has a number of renewable systems which generate a saving of 63674 tonnes/year of carbon. This is in the form of a Combined Heat Power (CHP) unit that is the primary source of heat demand, providing pre heat of the cold-water feed to the hot water generators. There is also a 450m2 array of PV, all of which are sub metered for monitoring.

IES was used to calculate the peak heat gain and heat losses throughout the building. We also had a Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) model produced for the main workshop to ensure correct air movement was achieved via natural ventilation.

The building has pushed the boundaries of best practice achieving BREEAM
Excellent using a well-balanced quality design providing unique learning spaces in a
highly efficient and comfortable building that will stand the test of a changing climate whilst providing an economic boost to the local economy, creating jobs and upskilling our workforce.



The project excelled in the Water category and achieved 100% of the available credits. This was through the specification of low flush toilets, installation of water monitoring systems, leak detection systems and Passive Infrared Sensors (PIR). A rainwater harvesting system has also been installed to supply a 100% of WCs within the building allowing for a 50.77% water saving over the baseline. Rainwater is channelled from the external canopy roof into a buried storage tank, passing an integrated filter to remove large debris, leaves etc. Excess rainwater flows out of an overflow. A sub-meter (ref. WM04) is installed on the rainwater feed, providing pulsed outputs to the BMS to enable remote monitoring of water consumption.

A number of measures were adopted by the principle contractor to ensure the responsible sourcing of materials, ethical supply chains and sustainable resource management. Willmott Dixon’s approach to sustainable procurement is in line with the principles contained within BS8903, pursuing best procurement practice during the build process.

Commissioning formed a key part of the buildings handover and allowed the contractors to ensure that systems installed met the design performance targets, mitigating as far as possible any performance gap that may be experienced in the future. Commissioning practices were carried out in accordance with BREEAM’s Man 04 requirements and meticulously followed and monitored by a specialist person throughout the assigned commissioning period. Furthermore, Willmott Dixon and the College are committed to monitor and measure future use and mitigate where needed to ensure the as designed building meets or exceeds the actual use in all aspects such as health and wellbeing, and not only energy performance.

Ecology and biodiversity

Ecology and biodiversity were a key aspect of the design. An ecosystem services approach pushed the boundaries of best practice design methods allowing a benefit across both ecology and pollution issues in BREEAM. This was achieved through the following measures:

  1. Native hedgerows and wildflowers areas whilst incorporating green space for users in amongst the ecology. Helping improve the health and wellbeing of occupants.
  2. Vegetated swale provided as part of the Sustainable Urban Drainage System reduced surface water run-off and volume, minimised water course pollution and created conditions for varied plant communities.

Other ecological features also included:

  1. Planting for year-round structure and insect habitat over winter.
  2. Planting selected for pollinators.
  3. Installation of a variety of bird and bat boxes.

BREEAM helped push the design and installation practices across all issues. This was evident in the award of the Wst 05 Adaption for Climate Change credit were exemplary

levels have been met, confirming that the building is future proofed and likely to cope with any additional stresses such as overheating as the climate changes in the future.


Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Yorkshire Regional Awards 2018
Winner – Design Award
Winner – Sustainability Award

Local Authority Building Control (LABC) Building Excellence Awards, South Yorkshire & Humber 2018
Winner – Best Educational Building Award
Winner – Winner of Winners Award

Sheffield Design Awards 2018
Highly Commended – Large Project Award
Constructing Excellence, Yorkshire & Humber 2017

Winner – Digital Construction Award
Constructing Excellence, Yorkshire & Humber 2018
Winner – Project of the Year
Winner – Best of the Best

Education Estates Awards 2018
Winner – Project of the Year