It’s funny how things turn out.
Here’s a family snap in the early 1980s. We are posing outside my digs on Huntingdon Road. And in the background……Mount Pleasant House! It is safe to say I couldn’t have imaged then how much a part of my life that building was to become!
Transforming Mount Pleasant House, a 1980s concrete office block, into Mount Pleasant Halls, a high specification accommodation for 272 students and academics, has been the biggest change at St Edmund’s of recent years. When I arrived Mount Pleasant Halls was a defined project, brilliantly conceived and planned by my predecessor. The challenge I had was to ensure that the new buildings were as per specification, on time and ready for Michaelmas 2019 for students and academic staff to move in. After a massive effort by everyone involved It is now fully operational and reports from residents are that it really is excellent accommodation. In fact, the project was entered for a national award – Collaboration of the Year – along with the developers. And we won!
Since then we’ve learned we’ve been shortlisted for more awards, including the RICS Social Impact Awards 2020. Some of the features of the project that have stood out for us include the fact that the project has embraced the concept of community engagement throughout. The building contractor prioritized employing local people during the construction, as well as apprentices and trainees. Also a local charity, Rowan, a vibrant and active part of the art community in Cambridge working with people with learning disabilities, was commissioned to design and make three benches for the courtyard. Rowan aims to break down the issues of social exclusion and improve health and wellbeing via its activities.
The development was also designed to meet the sustainability criteria of the college and the institutional funding market, for whom sustainability is essential. For example we achieved BREEAM Excellent, introduced a combined heat and power plant and also used solar shading to avoid using an air-cooling system. LED light fittings, energy efficient lightbulbs and PIR sensors have been used throughout. As part of the natural ventilation strategy, noise-attenuated air vents were used. These included a feature to pre-warm the fresh air entering the building, reducing the amount of heat lost to the atmosphere. This reduces the energy used to heat the rooms, reduces heat loss and creates a more pleasant living environment.
But there is more to the life of a Bursar than overseeing major development projects. I’ve managed to get the College Music Society established. It is still in its early stages of development, but we have also acquired through kind donations a cupboard full of music, which is the start of a music library, and a beautiful grand piano, which will lift our concerts. But for me personally the most fun was being asked to be in the band supporting Michael Bascom’s opera ‘Cathy’, a retelling of Wuthering Heights. We were in a 5 night (late night) run in the Corpus Playroom, playing on slightly rickety boxes as Michael perfected the score in real time.
One of the lovely features of College life is how informal it is, and how welcoming and open it is to family and friends. My family has been made to feel welcome and I know that colleagues in other colleges have enjoyed visiting the College for the same reason.
In the picture above we’re only a few feet from where the graduation photo was taken…..but then the past really is another country!