A Creative Conversion


By Alex Proctor

Associate director, Alex Proctor, explains how we turned an unwelcoming, brutal police station into a bespoke professional skills sixth form building.

With tight budgets and limited available land, schools are increasingly looking for other viable solutions to their building needs. We recently delivered the conversion of a former police station into an inspiring new sixth form and vocational learning environment for Harris Aspire Academy.

There is often a misconception that a refurbishment will result in a compromise to the building design. It is, however, possible to make a re-purposed building feel like a bespoke building and in fact there are some inherent benefits over a new build. As an example, at Harris Aspire Academy we were able to maximise the use of continuous ribbon windows for the majority of the teaching spaces, including the art department, which uses the panoramic views as subject matter for the students art projects. Such extensive glazing wouldn’t usually be affordable on a typical new build.


A sustainable option

Reuse and adaptation contributes to regeneration and sustainability on many levels; adding to place identity and social cohesion. It essentially negates the need for demolition, reducing the amount of new materials required for the development, whilst simultaneously reducing wastage that would otherwise go to landfill and making economic use of a building that has stood empty for many years.

Whilst better insulated new builds, are expected to make up for the higher carbon emissions during construction through lower operational emissions, studies indicate that this could take a long time to achieve. In response to this, we improved the building performance where at all possible within the budget, to reduce the impact loadings on the new services infrastructure. This included replacement of the low performance windows; installing daylight-linked, low energy LED lighting; PIRs and increasing the insulation to the flat roofs and walls. Sustainable Urban Drainage methods were also introduced to the scheme, by installing an area of extensive green roof to reducing surface water run-off from the building and decreasing the building’s impact on the mains sewer.

Supporting wellbeing

Amidst rising rates of depression and anxiety in young people, it is essential that we design buildings that support health and wellbeing. According to a theory by Edward O Wilson, humans have an innate tendency to seek connections with nature; if we lose that relationship for a long period, we can start to show signs of stress. The principles of Biophillia design were incorporated to provide the essential psychological and physiological benefits that exposure to nature offers. Full height supergraphics were incorporated, illustrating natural landscapes at each floor level.The themed supergraphics not only give the impression of spaciousness in the corridors, they add focal interest and facilitate wayfinding as they are easy to remember.


To counteract the psychological effects of having no natural daylight or views at basement level, an LED, backlight image of the sky was installed, mimicking a rooflight to subconsciously reinforce the users innate connection to nature.

The final result

Despite initial concerns that a disused police station would not lend itself to being repurposed as an education facility, the stakeholders, academy and the students are delighted with the delivered design.

“The end product has been delivered to a very high quality that sets the bar for other school refurbishment projects...” Gary Herbert, Project Director, Free Schools Capital.



Alex Proctor

Alex Proctor

Alex joined ADP in 2013 and is a
Revit super-user. He has experience
on a wide range of projects with a
focus on the education sector.