The design of a pioneering new £1.7 million agricultural centre has been recognised for improving the training facilities on offer to adults with autism, learning difficulties and other disabilities in County Durham.
Farm designers Gradon Architecture won the Value category at the North East Constructing Excellence Awards for its work on the North East Autism Society’s New Warlands Farm training centre in Holmside village.
Positive impact on sensory needs Chris Dempster, director of education at North East Autism Society, said: “We’re absolutely delighted with what has been achieved at New Warlands Farm. The new training centre has not only helped us to increase regional capacity to providers in the northeast, but has also improved the local provision of quality training opportunities on offer to individuals with specialist needs.
“The architectural design of the centre has had a really positive impact on addressing the sensory needs of each individual. Working in collaboration with our partners we’re proud to have a facility that meets the growing demand for providing accessible training opportunities to adults with autism, learning difficulties and other disabilities.”
Practical training environment for learning disabilities Located on a 77-acre site, New Warlands Farm offers practical skills and training opportunities for up to 50 individuals over the age of 16 in skills such as basic land management and animal care.
As the only centre of its kind in County Durham, the design of the building was crucial for delivering a practical training environment that would help to improve each individual’s interaction and engagement in their training activities.
People with learning disabilities react sensitively to surroundings Tanja Smith, associate architectural technologist at Gradon Architecture, said: “Designing and constructing a facility like New Warlands Farm posed a unique set of challenges.
“Some people with learning difficulties react sensitively to changes in their surroundings and can be affected by things like colour and noise. We worked closely with North East Autism Society to consider the specific design elements that would help to reduce the risk of users becoming distracted, whilst creating a positive environment for them to work in.
“By carefully considering everything from making the layout of the building feel familiar to service users to the acoustics, colours and textures used for soft furnishings, we have provided a robust yet sensitive design that truly responds to the individual’s complex needs.”