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Collaborative delivery: Meeting the rising demand for school places

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Local authorities across the UK are coming under increasing pressure to meet a rising demand for school places. Hounslow Council in west London, has begun a multi-million pound expansion and improvement programme to deliver those much-needed facilities. Allan Cowie, Director at Pick Everard, comments on the well advanced programme and the subsequent community regeneration within the borough.


Whilst rising demand for school places is not unique to London, the country’s capital is coming under increasing stress as population levels continue to rise. The recession has also had a notable impact. More and more people are choosing to remain in the capital due to the higher number of job opportunities available to them compared with the regions, and the number of children being educated privately has reduced, putting additional strain on the state education system.

In December 2012, Hounslow Council penned a deal with multi-disciplinary management and design partnership, Pick Everard to provide project and cost management and design services under the Government Procurement Services Framework, to deliver multiple new primary, secondary and special education needs school places over a five year period within challenging cost parameters.

Unique challenges

Pick Everard will be working on a total of 40 projects at a combined value of more than £150m, including a range of primary, secondary and special education needs schools. The projects will involve a series of expansions and feasibility studies, the majority of which will be completed during a five year period.

The programme began in January 2013, with work commencing on 10 schools initially, ready for the new intake of pupils in September 2014. Work at the following schools is due for completion in July; Norwood Green Infant and Nursery, Norwood Green Junior, Springwell Infant & Nursery, Springwell Junior, Sparrow Farm Infant and Nursery, Sparrow Farm Junior School, Feltham Hill Infant & Nursery, Feltham Hill Junior, Grove Park Primary and Crane Park Primary.

Unlike many traditional school expansion and improvement projects, these schools have presented the borough and Pick Everard with a series of unique acoustic challenges due to their location under the flight path for Heathrow Airport. At its busiest times, approximately one plane a minute lands or takes off at the airport – a challenge which has been relished by the firm.

Before work began on site, Pick Everard’s expert acousticians conducted a series of detailed surveys at each school to determine exactly what impact the aircraft noise has on each site and what measures must be employed to mitigate this to provide a high quality learning environment.

A ‘heavy weight’ construction strategy is used to ensure that buildings are sufficiently soundproofed to minimise the impact of plane noise in learning spaces, in addition to improved window specifications including triple glazing.

In addition to issues with soundproofing, providing sufficient ventilation to learning spaces where you cannot simply open the windows, has given engineers another challenge to overcome. Pick Everard has taken a ‘fabric first’ approach with its design and ventilation strategies – similar to that used when adopting a PassivHaus standard – to ensure the minimisation of energy expenditure and CO2 levels.

A series of sophisticated heat recovery ventilation systems have been installed at the majority of schools, which allow for the mechanical supply of fresh air and improve environmental control, helping to reduce the building’s CO2 emissions and enhancing energy credentials. In those schools where a single-storey extension has been installed, the concrete soffits, required for acoustic attenuation, have been exposed internally to allow for the use of a night cooling system. By passing air over the concrete used within the ceiling overnight, a cold thermal mass is created which helps to cool the building throughout the following day, mitigating the need for air conditioning.

Pick Everard has also adopted a standardised design process, aimed at improving the environmental credentials of the entire project – something which is key due to requirements laid out by the London Plan for buildings of more than 1000m2 in size to meet BREEAM standards. These innovative construction techniques and energy efficient ventilation strategies, ensure the provision of high quality learning environments for children’s education.

Community regeneration

As well as providing a number of much-needed school places across Hounslow, Pick Everard is committed to enriching the communities within which it is working.

Community regeneration is an important part of this schools programme as both the local authority and Pick Everard strive to give something back to local people in addition to excellent education facilities.

For example, it is hoped that planned sports facilities at school projects within the borough will be available for wider community use outside of school hours in addition to pupils and teachers during term time.

Providing excellent facilities to local people is a key strand of the work being undertaken by Pick Everard, with a focus on benefitting not only school children but their families and the areas in which they live. Future school projects involving Pick Everard will also work hard to benefit their surrounding areas and cement education at the heart of local communities.

2016 and beyond

Work on the initial 10 schools is due for completion in July, with additional places already required for September this year, but Pick Everard is already looking to the future. Indeed, feasibility studies have already been completed for schools needed for September 2016 and even beyond that. The second phase of the schools programme will commence later this summer, at a combined value of £30m with schools to be completed by September 2015.

Pick Everard boasts a wealth of experience in the education sector, particularly within the Greater London area. During the past four years alone, the firm has completed an impressive 176 school projects within the M25 – equivalent to around one per working week. This programme is of major significance to Pick Everard and has allowed the firm to take advantage of the national experience it has in delivering projects to the education sector. Having carried out work across several boroughs in London at a range of primary, secondary and special education needs schools, Pick Everard was perfectly placed to undertake this challenging programme of expansion and improvement in Hounslow.

Beginning in the London Borough of Richmond, where the firm completed ten primary school expansions and five master plans, Pick Everard has worked on a series of significant education projects in London. These include the £2.8m expansion of Hampton Wicks Infants School in Richmond upon Thames, which provided additional teaching accommodation to facilitate the expansion from 2FE to 3FE on a highly constrained site. Once again, this was a scheme delivered to extremely tight timescales which presented the firm with challenges to overcome.

Other significant projects within London include a £16m scheme to meet Richmond’s need to accommodate a growing demand for additional school places by expanding primary and secondary schools in the borough. The firm has also worked on school projects in areas such as Croydon, Bromley, Enfield and Hillingdon amongst others.

Pick Everard’s work on all these projects has assisted them into being able to provide innovative design solutions within challenging parameters, delivering to tight timescales and budgets for the London Borough of Hounslow during this substantial programme.

By focussing on a standardised design strategy for the schools, the firm has been able to deliver efficiencies in both time and money across the programme in Hounslow. And by analysing a range of appropriate construction methods against a back drop of very challenging geographic constraints, Pick Everard has been able to deliver cost effective, innovative and extremely high quality design solutions.

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