Last week we handed over the remaining three floors at Dixons Academy in Bradford five weeks ahead of programme. Formerly known as Douglas Mill, the mill was most recently used as NHS office accommodation until 2018, when the NHS vacated the building and it was bought by Department for Education (DfE) for Dixons Academies Trust. The DfE’s and Trust’s aim was to create the first sixth form unaffiliated with a school in Bradford. It was decided that Douglas Mill was the ideal building for this, being able to accommodate 880 pupils.
The mill itself had been refurbished as recently as 2005 and remained in relatively good condition. Soft demolition was required to all floors, removing existing partitions and internal fixtures, installing infrastructure for the science labs and replacement of carpets and decoration. Features like kinetic light switches have also been installed. These are programmed to specific rooms and are charged by people walking past and the switching on and off of the light. These switches require no cabling direct to the light fitting.
There were some structural challenges in the mill. Steel had to be installed within the 1m thick external walls for the provision of disproportionate collapse. The building also wasn’t square. All the walls were at slightly different angles, as expected from an 1840s building. The existing walls and vaulted, curved soffits were left on show, providing a unique and vibrant learning space for students.
The project continues on site with the refurbishment of the coach house and the creation of a new sports hall, both of which are due to be completed in March.
Dixons Academies Trust are extremely happy with the project to date. Kirsty Dwyer, Operations Manager for Dixons Sixth Form, said: “Since first working with Kier, I have always had the utmost respect and confidence in everything we discussed and the outcomes. As we have taken partial occupancy of the building, I have found all your staff to be courteous, respectful to their surroundings, and very knowledgeable and attentive when asked for help or advice…Our taking ownership of our part of the building has been made so much easier with your continued assistance and help.”