Sep 20, 2019 Last Updated 10:52 AM, Aug 14, 2019

Sunesis success with new £3.5m primary facility

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Willmott Dixon and Scape have delivered the best possible start to 2015 for pupils and staff at The Bemrose School in Derbyshire, having completed the school's new £3.5m primary facility in time for the new school term.


With Derby City Council needing absolute certainty over both the build cost and programme, they turned to the unique ‘off-the-shelf’ solution offered by Sunesis.

As a joint venture, Sunesis is built on the combined experience of public sector know-how and private expertise through the combination of Scape and contractor Willmott Dixon’s construction knowledge.

Authorities are able to choose the building they want from a range of five individual school designs, and personalise each one to suit their individual needs from a range of pre-costed options.

“The Sunesis process provides high quality, modern designs delivered on average 12 months faster and 30% cheaper than market alternatives,” explains Tim Carey Product Director at Willmott Dixon.

“All local authorities are under increasing pressure to save money, so this system is helping to reduce the cost of building new schools.”

Mark Robinson, Group Chief Executive at Scape said: “Sunesis is a unique product which has revolutionised the way we build and design schools. By working in partnership we have created a solution driven service which helps local authorities to save time and money, and provides further benefits for local economies, such as locally sourced material and employment.”

The completed Sunesis Keynes2 1.5FEN building is the second version of Sunesis’ most popular model, and delivers all of the key requirements expected of a twenty-first century school – encompassed in a safe, versatile and efficient building.

Nick Heath, Operations Director for Willmott Dixon in the East Midlands, said: “We are extremely pleased with this build, as it has provided a fantastic facility for the local community.

“The Bemrose is one of a number of education schemes that we have been delivering in Derby, and we are delighted that we have been able to work closely with students and staff throughout the project to ensure they were involved in the process every step of the way.”

The project was constructed on the school’s playing fields during term time while the original school was still open – meaning that the contractor worked closely with students and staff at The Bemrose, keeping them informed of progress on site.

The new primary facility at The Bemrose is the first Sunesis to be delivered for Derby City Council, and enables the school to be the first in the city to deliver education to ages three to 18 in one ‘through school’ environment. The key aims of the new school were to create 315 much-needed additional primary places in a city when demand currently outstrips supply, and to link primary and secondary teaching together. Both were achieved seamlessly through the Sunesis Keynes2 design.

The layout of the Keynes2 model is BB103 compliant and consists of 10 classrooms and a nursery. The overall design of the new building supports a year-based structure with a separate year group in each class, allowing each year to make their classroom their own.

Practical space

The design incorporates a central ‘learning zone’ between the classrooms in order to provide a vital heart of the school which brings together all of the individual spaces within the building. This heart space enables easy circulation to areas such as the main hall and more importantly, it creates a fully useable space for practical work and a wide range of small, medium and large group activities to be carried out in spaces aside from the year assigned classrooms.

The learning zone is the size of six classrooms and has a high ceiling creating an open space where the whole school community can come together – this design opposes traditional corridors that often consist of a series of isolated classrooms.

Reception classes at The Bemrose have been co-located in the new school, to enable separation of groups when required, yet also provide the opportunity for groups to collaborate together in different space. As the project was procured through the OJEU-compliant Scape Major Works Framework, the council and school were able to assure that the project’s time frame and costs were agreed from the outset of the project – which in total cost £3.5m and took 37 weeks to reach completion.

Importantly the Scape framework enabled Willmott Dixon to ensure that the project successfully diverted as much waste as possible from landfill, resulting in 90.99% of waste generated on site being diverted. Substantial local spend was generated over the course of the project, with the contractor securing 42% local spend within 20 miles of the site, 85% within 40 miles and 94% within 60 miles – resulting in a large re-investment in the local area.

Achieving an environmentally efficient school was at the forefront of the project and the council’s brief. This has been achieved through an air source heat pump system which supplies the entire building with heating in an energy efficient way – consuming less energy than a traditional system.

As part of Willmott Dixon’s commitment to working closely with the community and the school itself, the site team worked with students and teachers at The Bemrose throughout the project’s duration creating fun activities to help engage the pupils with the project and the new school.

During the project the site team worked with pupils in each class, allowing them to contribute and design their very own signage for their classroom – which enabled the pupils to put their own stamp on their new school, giving them a real sense of ownership and pride.

Similarly, the pupils at The Bemrose were encouraged by the contractor to create a time capsule, marking the construction of the new school and celebrating a milestone in the project. This was then buried by Willmott Dixon and is set to be uncovered in 50 years’ time.

The hands-on approach of the site team throughout the project has helped students to feel engaged with the new school from the very beginning, readying them for their first term in the completed building. The Bemrose is the 18th Sunesis primary school to be completed to date by and with a further scheme recently completed and three more new projects currently on site, the Sunesis success story continues to go from strength to strength, delivering over 8000 school places, helping to provide much needed new capacity in growing cities.

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