Translucent polycarbonate cladding panels from Rodeca were specified for a national training academy to maximise natural daylight for an optimum learning environment and to show the processes within the building.

A total of 575m² of Rodeca’s PC 2540-7 lightweight wall panels feature on all elevations of the £3.5million National Training Academy for Rail (NTAR) developed in conjunction with Siemens’ Rail Division. The 40mm-thick, 500mm-wide Rodeca panels have been used partly as rainscreen and partly as a double-wall construction.

The fast-track tongue and groove panels were specified by CMPG architects to meet the brief for an exemplar building for NTAR and Siemens to promote their branding and be used as a conference facility.

The scope of the project to develop the academy encompassed the design, build and fitting out of the new training centre at Northampton (the Academy Hub) including an operational training hall and associated site works, as well as the refurbishment of associated training rooms at other Siemens Rail locations (the Academy Spokes).

The academy balances the functional emphasis on providing a quality training environment with large scale workshop, training spaces and amenity, with a modern pleasing design aesthetic; a place where people want to be and want to learn. The client asked for a modern learning environment, and due to its location adjacent to a main train line, a quality building emphasising the culture of the company.

CMPG senior architect Ajay Chauhan said: "We sold the product to the client to increase daylighting into the spaces and to create a building that not only was translucent to show the processes but also unique in promoting the NSAR branding. The clients are extremely excited and pleased with the end product.

"The part the Rodeca systems play in the project is an important one as the whole building is clad in them. The clients wanted a building that created lots of natural daylight to promote better learning, and to provide a backdrop for students which influences their understanding of engineering education, as the building structure can be seen through the cladding."

He added: "The building is entirely clad in polycarbonate and uses single and double-layered sections in which certain large sections will glow at night and also allow natural diffused light into the classrooms, main entrance foyer and main training hall during the day."

The Rodeca Deco-Color panels (where the exterior panel layer is coloured differently from the interior panel layers, for extra effect) were installed by specialist sub-contractor Select Facades for main contractor Clegg Construction.

200 times tougher than glass and capable of delivering U-values of 1.00 to 1.10W/m2K, they were used at NTAR with one outer wall in Kristall colour and six rear walls in Opal, allowing light transmittance of up to 41%.

The drive to develop a rolling stock-focused UK training academy comes from a nationally recognised shortage of skills in this sector and Siemens’ success in the expansion of their rail maintenance business.

Currently, some 13,500 people work in specialist traction and rolling stock roles across the UK. The new academy will focus on addressing the future skills shortage in this part of the UK rail sector (forecast to be around 4,500 people over the next five years) caused by a combination of factors including an ageing workforce, the technological advancement of rolling stock, and investment and growth in the industry.

Siemens’ continued success in the UK market and the recent awards of Eurostar and Thameslink also results in the need to increase and develop the UK workforce, upskill the existing rolling stock business, introduce training and skills specific to the new rolling stock, train new audiences such as on-train staff and police, improve Siemens’ supervisory, management and leadership training, position Siemens to be able to respond from a skills perspective to further contract success, and to build deeper collaborative relationships through all parts of the industry.

NTAR has been shortlisted for the East Midlands 2016 RICS Awards (Infrastructure, Essential Facilities).