May 01, 2017 Last Updated 10:20 AM, Apr 28, 2017

Linear arrangement: Sustainable school build provides 420 new places

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Winner in the Peterborough Development and Environment Awards' Construction category of Best Technical Innovation/Sustainability project, Welland Primary School for Peterborough City Council has been well received by the client, parents and pupils. Mark Appleyard, Director of architect practice Woods Hardwick talks to PSBJ about the collaborative approach throughout the build.

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The school provides facilities for the growing population of the city and is a two-form entry school taking approximately 60 children each academic year, providing a total of 420 places for children from Reception to Year 6.

Although the initial design work was complete and planning approval had been sought, it was clear that the initial costing exercise for the project was over budget and value engineering options would need to be considered to bring the project budget back in line. The Peterborough Development and Environment Award was won in part to the sustainability initiatives employed on the project, but also because of the “high standards of design, construction and workmanship” is a testament to how this was resolved in a successful final outcome.

Design and sustainability

Woods Hardwick’s principal role was to act as lead designer and work with the main contractor and design team, the client team, education authority and representatives from the school to interrogate the original design and prepare a revised scheme.

As part of the funding agreement there was a requirement for the building to achieve a BREEAM ‘Very Good’ rating. One of the principle criteria placed on the Woods Hardwick team was to ensure as many of the original sustainable initiatives were retained, or more cost effective solutions employed in the revised scheme to achieve the target rating.

A collaborative, team working approach to this whole process was implemented. This allowed, through structured design team meetings, a rigorous examination of all aspects of the school requirements so they could be met in the most cost-efficient way. This approach also allowed the project to move forward efficiently.

Working closely with the main contractor and BREEAM Assessors, the detail design was developed. A simple palette of materials was established early in the process comprising facing brickwork, render, aluminium, glazing and a ‘green roof’. These options were chosen for their ecological, sustainable and ‘Green Guide’ credentials, as well as providing a strong visual appearance. Along with the natural ‘living’ green roof, other sustainable initiatives included a rainwater harvesting system, photovoltaic panels, sun pipes, wind catchers and a biomass boiler using recycled pellets.

Project overview

The new school needed to accommodate the increased demand for school places as a direct result of increasing birth rate in the locality. The school comprises a total of 14 classrooms to take children from Reception to Year 6.

The classrooms are arranged in pairs with two class bases for each year group and dedicated cloakrooms and WCs located between the two bases. There are also two school halls, a food technology room, staffroom, a dedicated activity space and library.

Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 classrooms are accommodated as independent spaces and the school also accommodates several group rooms, stores and offices.

The plan form is a simple linear arrangement based on standard room layouts agreed with Children’s Services. It incorporates a main ‘street’ which forms the backbone of the school, with classrooms and other teaching, non-teaching and ancillary spaces accessed off the street and arranged in a manner that best support the school’s operation.

Externally to each classroom a glazed veranda roof is supported off a series of columns and beams connected back to the main structure. Roof lights enhance natural daylight along the internal ‘street’ and some of the internal rooms.

The edges of the ‘green roof’ are finished with a deep yet simple profiled polyester powder coated aluminium fascia and verge detail finished in dark grey creating a strong definitive break between roof and wall. The colours of the sedum plant mix complement the other colours of the external fabric providing a homogenous colour scheme across the elevations.

The materials used in the building are arranged and used in a way that allows it to take on its own language. For example the entrances to the class-based cloakrooms are finished in a smooth through-coloured insulated render system. This provides a visual break along the brickwork of the principal facades and gives the entrances their own significance. To link this further, the render finish has been continued above the curtain walling.

Occupancy feedback

Inclusion was an important part of the process with Woods Hardwick maintaining a relationship with the school’s headmaster throughout. This also included a presentation to staff and children on the project’s design philosophy, construction and sustainable initiatives.

Giles Civil, Head Teacher, Welland Primary School, said: “As end users and clients we have found Woods Hardwick to be open, honest and practical in their design approach. Their designs show clarity of purpose, practicality and flexibility, essential aspects to a modern primary school building.”

For Woods Hardwick, Welland Primary School was an exciting project to work on. The close working relationship with the main contractor and design team coupled with the interactive approach taken by the head teacher allowed the team as a whole to deliver an education project which has been well received by the school.

The project has also received an Award at the Local Authority Building Control (LABC) East Anglia Building Excellence Awards in April 2013 for ‘Best Education Building’.

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