The local authority wants to become a centre of excellence in eco-homes. Credit: SCC

Brims lands £15m Sunderland construction skills academy

The local contractor has been appointed by the city council for the scheme in the Sheepfolds area of the Riverside Sunderland masterplan, replacing original builder Tolent.

The Housing Innovation and Construction Skills Academy (HICSA) is intended to provide “next generation skills for next generation homes” and support the city’s advanced manufacturing, carbon reduction and renewable energy ambitions.

Managed by Sunderland College, HICSA will deliver training that will educate and upskill local people to create factory-built new homes, the first of which will be built at Riverside Sunderland.

The facility will be based at Sheepfolds and will include the re-purposed existing goods shed on the corner of Hay Street.

Tolent was awarded a £15m contract for the job in September 2022, but entered administration earlier this year.

Cllr Kevin Johnston, portfolio holder for dynamic city, said: “HICSA will establish Sunderland as a regional and national hub for housing innovation, research and development. It will attract and retain local talent, providing greater education and career opportunities for young people from under privileged communities.

“The Council is creating a city-wide housing ecosystem, providing more and better housing, increasing the city centre population, and driving regeneration that will have huge benefits for local people.”

Construction on the site is expected to start in the next month, with work expected to complete in 2025.

Jason Wood, director at Brims, said “Brims Construction are very proud to have won the contract to deliver the HICSA project on behalf of Sunderland City Council. The scheme will educate, train, and upskill local people to create and build homes whilst learning a multitude of trades within our industry.

“Beyond bricks and mortar, we see this project as an opportunity to create a lasting legacy for the construction industry. By combining our construction expertise and the vision for the HICSA project, we aim to craft a space that will stand as a testament to innovation, quality, and purpose. Together, let’s build not just a structure, but a legacy that will inspire generations to come.”

Sunderland College will operate the academy with support from education and industry partners including one of the founding partners, the Ministry of Building Innovation and Education (MOBIE), which is led by Washington-born TV architect, George Clark.

HICSA is one of several projects that will form Riverside Sunderland, including the already completed City Hall and The Beam, as well as a new footbridge across the River Wear; an eye hospital; multi-purpose cultural venue; and the National E-sports Performance Campus.

Also this month, Brims has completed work on the conversion of Washington Old School into 15 apartments, to be managed by SCC’s adult social care team. The conversion of the premises, vacated in the 1990s, took a year.

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