PRESENT and future students and staff at Basingstoke’s award-winning Queen Mary’s College have received a major boost with the opening of a state-of-the-art £13m building.

The Spectrum, which has over 5,500 square metres over three storeys includes 25 fully fitted classrooms and 11 fully equipped science laboratories.

There is also an area designed especially for primary schoolchildren to visit the college to take part in practical science lessons in a laboratory.

Along with the science facilities, the building also accommodates the history, geography, learning support, sports science and sociology departments.

Professor Jim Al-Kalili declared the facilities open by unveiling a plaque at a ceremony attended by invited guests, including Councillor Brian Gurden, the Mayor of Basingstoke and Deane.

The guest of honour is a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Surrey and has appeared in TV documentaries including BBC Four’s The Secret Life of Chaos.

Prof Al-Khalili said: “So many primary schools don’t have the facilities to inspire children of that age, and for these children to come here and work in a real laboratory and use the facilities that they wouldn’t otherwise have, is what’s going to lead to the next generation of scientists.”

Work on The Spectrum began in September 2008 and was complete in just over a year. Outside is a rubber-crumb pitch for football and rugby use which has been approved by both the Football Association and the English Rugby Football Union.

The new building is leading the way in sustainability. It has 12 solar panels on the roof, an energy centre on the first floor and a harvesting system to collect rainwater from the roof to filter and use to flush the toilets.

A ‘Brise Soleil’ system has also been installed to prevent too much light coming through the windows, and a glass roof allows natural light into the building to save on electricity costs.

Funding for the ambitious project – the latest in a series of developments at QMC – came partly from the college, and partly from the Learning and Skills Council.