We have worked with the Diocese of Westminster since 1986 and our interdisciplinary design teams have implemented a large number of projects across their school estate, achieving continued best value, tight build cost control and high quality with a rigorous full design and competitive procurement approach.
In 2014, we were set a challenge by Ealing Council to deliver a building for St Raphael’s Catholic Primary School that would cost less than a modular option, but still provide a high quality building. After careful consideration, our response was to:
- create a design with minimal angles, helping to minimise steel, footings and wall structure
- specify a steel frame that co-ordinated and fitted in with the super structure, reducing awkward internal casing details and junctions
- fit a roof structure of composite panels, making it quick to install
- consider mechanical and electrical services early on, avoiding surplus building voids
- use traditional building materials that all builders understand, simplifying the construction process, but still providing a building that’s fit for purpose and easy to maintain
This approach meant we successfully completed the expansion of the Northolt school at a very competitive turnkey cost of £1,400/m2 – proving that a 60+ year lifespan traditional build (concrete floors, masonry walls, suspended ceilings, full plaster finish) can be delivered for less than many modular alternatives. By applying value engineering throughout the whole design process, we provided a very high quality learning environment that’s easily adaptable at a later stage. It’s also worth noting that build cost is at a premium in London, so cost per metre could potentially be less than £1,400 depending on location.
Meticulous scheduling, precise contract management, restricted access times and close liaison with all stakeholders ensured construction of the new block was delivered with minimum disruption to the occupied school. Not only did we provide an outstanding space with efficiency savings and longevity, but it has also set precedence for all future building projects. Ann Staunton, head teacher at St Raphael’s commented, ‘The new building has greatly enhanced our growing school and now meets the needs of our community.’
The development was designed to provide:
- Six new class bases
- Two group rooms
- A flexible small hall/studio space with movable partitions to allow for maximum flexibility
- Additional toilet facilities for two year groups
- Natural light and ventilation to all spaces
- External formation of a covered canopy between the existing accommodation and new build
- Landscaping to external areas
The new classroom block was constructed on a defunct grassed area behind the main block, whilst still protecting existing play spaces. It was positioned so it follows the orientation of the existing two main teaching blocks and allows for efficient flow between the learning areas. The new block was designed in sympathy with the existing surroundings; brickwork was laid in two styles to match and provide architectural interest and enhance the appearance. Panels of through colour render in blue were used to break up the elevations into individual elements; creating colour and interest.
The design team provided clever build features to create a sense of space. The roof was finished in composite insulated panel with a standing steam finish effect which is not only efficient in construction but also provides high levels of thermal insulation.
Stacey Powell, Principal Architect at DHP and lead designer on the St Raphael’s project, explained, ‘As with all educational projects, budget was highly restricted so our challenge was to build an elementary building which maximized space within the agreed footprint.’