April 18, 2024

The ‘better, greener, faster’ approach to developing new public buildings has been used to deliver three new school buildings in Essex.

To create the school buildings, Essex County Council embraced the approach known as Modern Methods of Construction, which sees the school buildings manufactured in component parts away from the site and then assembled at the location.

The three new school buildings are located at: Colne Community School & College in Brightlingsea, Colchester; Clacton County High School in Clacton-on-Sea; and Sweyne Park School in Rayleigh. The comprehensive upgrades were awarded to Morgan Sindall Construction by Essex County Council under the ECF2 Framework and amount to £9.5 million.

Prefabricated modular units, manufactured by Eco Modular Buildings, were used throughout each project to ensure that the work was delivered quickly, efficiently and to a high standard while minimising disruption to the live school sites. The modern methods of construction (MMC) approach that Morgan Sindall Construction implemented was a key part of these school buildings being able to achieve Net Zero Carbon in operation, which was a first for the county.

At Clacton County High School in Clacton-on-Sea, a £3.5 million expansion project was completed on 15th December. This involved the construction of a brand-new standalone teaching block, creating 10 general teaching classrooms, a plant room, and a four-court sports hall. This development increased the school’s offering from 1,695 permanent school places up to 1,800 for years seven-11.

This was the only project of the three that wasn’t entirely modular. A hybrid approach was employed instead in which modular class bases were combined with a traditional steel frame. This was required to achieve the necessary spans for the hall and illustrates how the two methods, traditional and modular, can be effectively used together.

A brand new £4 million teaching block was handed over at Colne Community School & College in Brightlingsea, Colchester on 14th December. This new development includes eight general teaching classrooms, two resistant material technology rooms, two food technology rooms, a seminar room and a plant room.

A £2 million standalone teaching block was built at The Sweyne Park School in Rayleigh to provide an extra 150 places for children of high school age. Handed over on 1st September, the new teaching block includes six general teaching rooms, a WC, and staff rooms as well as special provisions and classroom enhancements to support suitable education for hearing impaired pupils. Morgan Sindall Construction also remodelled external areas to provide access to the adjacent 57-acre Sweyne Park.

Peter Whitmore, Managing Director for Morgan Sindall Construction’s East region, said: “These three projects represent an exciting new approach to growing our schools in order to meet a rapidly increasing pupil population while simultaneously achieving a very high standard of sustainability, efficiency and quality.

“With the government’s net zero target shining a spotlight on the importance of low carbon developments, these projects are a great showcase of how to design, construct and manage building projects with significantly reduced levels of carbon emissions. Thanks to the success of this approach, Essex County Council has been able to meet its impressive net zero in operation goal.

“We worked closely with a number of key stakeholders, including Essex County Council and the school’s staff, to ensure that the new buildings would be ideal for the task at hand. This even included taking one of the head teachers on a visit to the modular factory to explain the design and the process. We’re delighted that the new school buildings have now been delivered and that they’re having a really positive impact on the growing communities in which they’re based.”

Stuart Beales, Sales and Marketing Director at Eco Modular Buildings, said: “These projects are a great example of what can be achieved when sustainable, modular technologies are used together in a clever, joined up manner. Thanks to this approach, the new school buildings all have a number of energy efficient, carbon-reducing advantages built into the very fabric of the classrooms and corridors.

“These advantages range from solar panels, air source heat pumps and low energy ventilation to metering systems that gather data on energy usage in order to continually improve how the school operates. When combined with the superior insulation and air tightness levels we’ve achieved and the reliability of the offsite manufacturing methods, this will all enable the new school buildings to generate as much power as they will require.

“Achieving net zero in operation not only requires a close attention to detail when it comes to designing, manufacturing and constructing new school buildings, as it’s also important that we monitor and regulate the sites once the pupils and staff have moved in. We’ll therefore be conducting regular evaluations that assess both the data that’s been gathered as well as the user experience.”

Cllr Tony Ball, Essex County Council Cabinet Member for Education Excellence, Lifelong Learning and Employability, said: “Using the Modern Methods of Construction approach on these three projects has enabled us to successfully deliver new teaching space for schools whilst at the same time helping us deliver on our ambitions to tackle climate change and work towards making Essex carbon neutral, as set out in the Essex Climate Action Commission report.

“These projects play a part in reducing carbon emissions caused by school buildings, at the same time creating a high-quality, bright, fresh, and comfortable learning environment for children. Building this way also leaves schools with more money to spend on educating children rather than paying bills and maintenance.”

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