A Summer makeover for Hull College


Hull College Group wanted to upgrade the exterior of the tower block and Hull School of Art and Design (HSAD) on its Queen’s Gardens campus in Hull city centre.

This included replacing the existing windows of the tower block with UPVC double glazing, as well as increasing the energy efficiency and solar performance of the HSAD building to improve the quality of light while enhancing the overall external appearance.

Although it is not listed, the building is considered of significant interest in the Hull area and is an education hub in the heart of the city, so careful consideration needed to be given to how the external façade would look.

This was particularly important as the area has become the new route to the Arctic Corsair deep-sea trawler, which has been converted to a museum ship and is a popular visitor attraction on the River Hull, so it was vital to ensure the area was aesthetically pleasing.

Due to the college’s location, logistical challenges included restricted space to work in and working in a live environment with a high footfall around the college for some of the scheme.

Sewell Construction was appointed to carry out the 3,000sqm project following a competitive tendering process and was chosen based on value for money, as well as quality.

Sewell has also completed other large schemes close to the college, including the refurbishment of Hull New Theatre and building the Ron Dearing University Technical College (UTC).

Hull College is one of the biggest further and higher education colleges in the country, offering more than 1,000 courses to over 26,000 students from over 115 different countries from its colleges in Hull, Goole and Harrogate each year. This amount of students is larger than the capacity of Hull’s KCOM Stadium.

According to independent research, Hull College Group contributes £517 million annually to the economy in Hull and the East Riding of Yorkshire – the equivalent of 23,000 jobs with an average wage.

Project development:

Weekly design meetings were held three months before work started on site, detailing the plans and working through the requirements of the scheme.

Meanwhile, fortnightly on-site meetings and monthly client meetings were planned in advance to take place during the scheme.

As it was a live environment, segregation was important and construction work and deliveries needed to be well managed, planned ahead and communicated with the college team.

There was a high footfall for approximately 14 hours of the day when the college was open and the team needed to consider building security while ensuring they didn’t disrupt the college day.

The majority of the scheme was carried out during the summer holidays, which was the quietest time for the college, and a robust segregation system was planned in advance, with fencing and signage put in place early to clearly mark out areas which were off limits, as well as walkways and access route directions.

Working to a tight five-month timescale, phased completion dates were critical to ensure all work was completed in time. Plans were also made to work out of hours, including both evenings and weekends, to meet the requirements of the scheme.

Before work began, sequencing and timing to remove the existing glazed roof on the HSAD building had to be carefully planned to ensure the building wasn’t exposed to the elements for a prolonged period of time.

Teamwork and logistics played a huge part in this to ensure this could be achieved and it was completed during the summer holidays while there was less footfall around the college.

A hoist was put in place to move materials up the tower block to ensure the team didn’t have to carry materials upstairs, while bird cage scaffolding was planned for the HSAD building to ensure the team was at the right height to install the new roof safely.

The glazed roof had to be installed from an internal position, so the whole building needed to have scaffolding put in place throughout the inside to create a false floor while the work was completed. Plans for this were put in place before work began.

The supply chain was selected from tried and tested relationships and based on those have previously worked on other schemes of a similar nature and size.


Key milestones in the project included:

  • Setting up the site compound facilities and erecting segregation areas and signage before work began.
  • Preparing work areas for the start of the summer holidays when it was less of a live environment.
  • Glazed roof replacement.
  • Glazing in the tower block and the HSAD building.
  • Phased completion of the work in time for the end of summer holidays, ensuring staff and students could return to the campus safely.
  • Internal finishing, including mechanical and electrical works.
  • Soft landing and handover back to the college.

Asbestos seals were removed from the old windows in the HSAD building and disposed of correctly and safely before new windows were installed.

Work on the HSAD building included removing the external roof glazing, insulating and re-roofing the rest of the building, upgrading the electrical installations, IT and heating ventilation, and improving the fire alarm and detection systems.

A natural ventilation system was built in to replace the old system, ensuring more efficient air changes and lower temperatures.

Self-cleaning glass was introduced into the HSAD building, along with ‘man safe’ systems for the roof to ensure it could be accessed for maintenance and plant work, and disabled access and ramps outside.

There was limited parking and storage on site, and some access routes had to be shared with the end users and the construction team. But good communication, segregated walkways and advanced warning of any disruption or changes to those routes were flagged with the college and agreed in advance.

Weekly newsletters were sent out to key stakeholders, meetings were held between the site manager and the client’s Project Manager every morning, as well as fortnightly progress meetings and monthly client meetings.

Demonstrations of any new equipment and facilities were given once the project was completed to ensure a smooth handover and seamless transition for the end users.


  • Delivered on time and on budget
  • Delivered without any accidents or defects
  • 16 subcontractors involved in project, with an average of 25 operators on site per day
  • Two apprentices
  • 85% local labour
  • 80% local spend
  • Less than 5% waste to landfill

The new building refurbishment now offers a contemporary space for this work to begin and marks another chapter in the history of the school, which was founded in 1861

Lucy Francis Director of Hull School of Art and Design