Thomas Johnstone Ltd hands over New Learning Hub to Harmeny Education Trust

Leading construction and specialist fit-out contractor Thomas Johnstone Ltd has announced their successful handover of a new Outdoor Learning Hub to Harmeny Education Trust.  The project has created a transformative space that has enabled the Trust to extend its capacity to support young people aged 14-18.

Located in the picturesque village of Balerno, at the foot of the Pentland Hills, Harmeny Education Trust is a nationally recognised children’s charity providing education, care, and therapeutic support to young people with complex additional support needs due to early years trauma and adversity.  The new Learning Hub serves as the centre point for Harmeny Education Trust’s extended, skilled-based secondary curriculum and outdoor learning.

Having successfully tendered to construct and fit out Harmeny Education Trust’s new Learning Hub in early 2022, Thomas Johnstone Ltd’s site team broke ground in November 2022.

Occupying an extended footprint of the former outdoor centre, the new Outdoor Learning Hub has been designed by Glasgow-based architects Loader Monteith with Studio SJM and represents a remarkable transformation from its predecessor.  The old outdoor centre, which TJL’s site team carefully demolished before construction began, had limited functionality. The building was unusable during the year’s coldest months due to its unheated ‘lean-to’ construction, with concrete flooring and uninsulated timber walls.  Surrounded by an established woodland, the new Learning Hub will provide Harmeny’s young people with space to embrace nature and engage in outdoor, environmental, and expressive arts activities.

Constructed with a timber frame, the highly insulated new building consists of two main sections connected via an external breezeway.  Half clad in European Larch, the building’s exterior will gradually weather over time to blend seamlessly with its woodland surroundings.  The rest of the building has been finished with around 15,000 Forum Smoked Branco facing bricks.  The grey colour and light texture of the brick beautifully offsets the warmth of the Scottish Larch wood cladding.

The Learning Hub’s interior has been just as thoughtfully designed to meet the unique needs of its young people.  Building 1 houses the main reception area, changing and drying rooms, and staff areas.  Building 2 constitutes several creative workshops, including an Art & Design Studio, Woodwork, and small Engineering Workshops.  TJL’s Manufactured Joinery division was employed to create bespoke items for the building’s interiors, including mobile workstations and hardwood countertops.

Gordon Cameron, Regional Commercial Director at Thomas Johnstone Ltd, remarked, “The collaborative effort between Thomas Johnstone Ltd, Harmeny Education Trust and the wider design team reflects our commitment to delivering high-quality construction solutions that positively impact our communities.

The Learning Hub’s environmentally conscious design by Loader Monteith with Studio SJM harmoniously blends with its natural surroundings.  We are proud to have been the main contractor on this project and are excited to see the Outdoor Learning Hub’s impact on Harmeny’s young people: providing them with a supportive environment for future growth and learning.”

Neil Squires, Harmeny’s Chief Executive, explains: “The children and young people in our care have experienced some of the most difficult starts in life. Previously, they had to leave Harmeny at age 14 – which is an incredibly disruptive experience at a vital time in their learning journey. With our new hub, Harmeny can now be there for them up to age 18 if they need it and our young people now have the security they need to focus on their future and can continue to live and learn among friends and adults they have grown to trust.”

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