Sector: ,


Watford University Technical College

Construction value:


Design team:


University Technical Colleges

Main Contractor: 

Willmott Dixon


Ellis Williams Architects

M & E Consultant: 

Building Services Design

Developing the right skills for careers of the future in Watford




The vision was to provide Watford with a new University Technical College (UTC) which would provide 600 local young people, aged 14 to 19, with specialist technical studies alongside traditional education supported by high profile academic and employer partners. This would mean obtaining an existing site and formulating a change of use of the building’s current facilities. Sanyo’s former head offices on Colonial Way were designated as the site for this purpose.




The emphasis was very much on the school feeling and operating as one despite the Axis and Sanyo buildings being completely different architecturally. Structural co-ordination is a frequent issue for M&E design teams and is an area where we have proven – and growing – expertise.

The biggest challenge was to incorporate the refurbishment and new build extension into the existing buildings, one built in the 1990s and the other in 2000, in order to convert them from offices into a new state of the art educational facility. Our design would have to accommodate a scheme that supported two different types of design systems but offer the same functionality across two very dissimilar types of buildings.

The design of the M&E services was also subject to a very tight cost budget for what would be a business focused Free School.




By using a stringent cost control plan, and ensuring the client was kept up to date on valuations throughout the life cycle of the project, we were able to deliver a design that incorporated the two existing buildings.

Our electrical solution included fire, security, lighting and containment, with existing data being enhanced to accommodate the change of use from offices to school. From a mechanical perspective, we designed comfort cooling in the auditorium of the Axis Building, including fabric ductwork. In the Sanyo building, we made modifications to the existing ventilation system, including the addition of new capabilities to meet the higher occupancy levels. In both buildings, we upgraded the MCWS system to meet the demands of the new commercial kitchen layout.





We have created a standardised design that creates the desired impression that Sanyo House and Axis are one. Both buildings are now joined by a link cover. The project has resulted in a state of the art school offering a fantastic opportunity to students who are searching for a high quality vocational education. The UTC’s main specialisms will be Computer Science, Hospitality, Tourism and Event Management and will develop the right skills for “careers of the future”, while complementing and supplementing existing education and skills provision in Watford.