Oxford-based family-run construction firm Beard has completed one of the biggest contracts in its history with a major redevelopment at St Hilda’s College at the city’s university.

Its much-praised £20m ‘front of college’ project for student accommodation with 54 bedrooms is also the largest redevelopment of the college in its history. It marks the college’s 125th anniversary.

Key aspects of the estate have been altered as part of the project, including the entrance, the street view and the riverside frontage and was described as ‘architecturally stunning’ by the college.

The brief was to provide student accommodation (54 bedrooms), and to bring together key College administration functions into one place.

Specifics of the work include:

  • New main entrance to the college
  • New accommodation for students
  • A new boundary building to house the middle common room, chapel and porter’s lodge
  • New teaching and office space
  • New riverside pavilion for entertaining
  • Crowning of the tower using aluminium gold leaves, mounted around a steel frame, painted by hand with bespoke St Hilda’s gold.

The new accommodation seeks to relieve both the financial pressure for students seeking accommodation in the private rental market, and ease demand for accommodation in the city.

Dean Averies, director at Oxford-based Beard, said the construction firm was successful in its bid for the work due to its track record in the education sector and especially with the university.

He said: “St Hilda’s has been a fantastic project for Beard to work on, especially as it marks a special anniversary for the college.

“We understood the constraints of the college from the start, so the two-stage procurement route gave us time to work through issues before we got to site.

“There were some challenges along the way as we had identified a number of significant gaps in the design information, which we had to fill to enable the project to progress. Of course, we subsequently had the ongoing restrictions due to coronavirus, which we were able to absorb and work around.

“However, we were able to hand over on schedule and delivered on the original vision to create an inspiring place to live, work and study, for the next 125 years.”

Neil Hyatt, head of buildings, St Hilda’s College said: “Beard has worked tirelessly with the novated design team and subcontractors, to ensure that the best possible outcome was achieved for St Hilda’s College.

“Despite the challenges, due to coronavirus, as promised, our study rooms were ready on time for the start of the academic year. This was a collaborative project and the successful outcome was driven by contracts manager Steve Lambourne and his team.

“Everyone is stunned by the architecture, the quality of finish and above all Beard’s commitment, to meeting client expectations.”

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