Wates and Capita Symonds unveil school refurb model

Contractor Wates Construction and design and infrastructure consultancy Capita Symonds have developed a new model for adapting existing commercial buildings into school buildings at a cost saving of up to 60% compared to new school spaces.

Adapt Schools Solutions provides four educationally-led blueprint designs for modern schools that can be implemented at any suitable site in the UK.

With a record shortfall of school places, the blueprints will enable schools and cash-strapped local authorities to address the urgent need for more capacity. Wates and Capita Symonds said 3,444 primary schools in the UK are already at or over capacity and the primary school population is growing. Adapt is aimed at helping to address this problem and responds to the recent James Review calling for standardised school design: the construction phase of new school delivery can be up to 50% shorter, Wates says, with the cost of a typical primary school cut from around £4.5m to just £2.38m, for example.

The Adapt model also has environmental benefits, explained John Shannon, regional business unit director for Wates Construction: "The UK government has set out some ambitious carbon reduction targets and Wates Construction is constantly reviewing its build procedures to ensure construction projects are delivered as efficiently as possible in order to help meet these targets. Adapt Schools Solutions provides a sustainable blueprint to enable the conversion of existing buildings for new school projects, which in turn will help reduce the carbon footprint of the construction industry."

Through faster design and pre-construction phases, shorter on-site construction periods, lower design fees and easier maintenance, the solutions could create capital savings of 40% for new-build and 60% for refurbished, alternative buildings. The model has been shaped by Wates' work on Campsmount Technology College in Doncaster, the pilot project which underpinned the efficiency recommendations in the James Review.

As well as reducing the cost of new school buildings, Adapt provides a blueprint for the conversion of existing, alternative buildings such as offices and retail centres to create new school spaces and regenerate communities. With a significant proportion of local government estate currently vacant and with limited prospects for asset sales in flagging regional office markets, the solution will allow councils to make more effective use of their property while improving the quality of educational facilities for local children.

Shannon added: "Against a backdrop of reduced funding, and with student numbers reaching near-critical levels in the region, there is an urgent need for a more efficient and cost-effective way to deliver school places. The UK needs to spend £8.5bn simply to repair existing school buildings which have fallen into disrepair and this money could be put to far better use in delivering the new and refurbished facilities we desperately need.

"The Adapt model will empower local authorities to meet cost-cutting objectives through all the benefits of a standardised approach, without sacrificing the ability to tailor individual schools to local requirements."

Jane Longfield, education director at Capita Symonds, added: "We believe that Adapt represents a step-change in the way schools are designed and constructed. Our blueprints have been developed to create 21st century learning environments, even on constrained sites or using alternative buildings.

"The designs are based on using standardised spaces, which can be reconfigured and customised to suit a wide range of different sites, buildings, layouts and adjacencies. We are providing a framework which can deliver robust, fit-for-purpose and flexible schools, just about anywhere."

Wates is one of the region's largest contractors in the education sector, currently working on the £19.5m Faculty of Business and Law for Liverpool John Moores University and the £12m Learning Commons building for the University of Manchester.

Blueprint proposals of Adapt Schools Solutions are:

  • Converted 2FE primary schools from £750 per sq m (net construction)
  • Converted 6FE secondary schools from £800 per sq m (net construction)
  • New-build 2FE primary schools from £1,200 per sq m (net construction)
  • New-build 6FE secondary schools from £1,100 per sq m (net construction)
  • Based on location factor 1. Net construction costs. Abnormals excluded. Based on an indicative cost model. Prices correct as of Q4 2010.

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