03 / 08 / 2012

Morgan Sindall has today launched a new programme to help local education authorities meet the challenge of upgrading the UK’s schools estate.

Community Plus is a range of new standard designs for primary and secondary schools which are fully supported by funding options to ensure that the projects are financially viable.

The Community Plus offering draws upon the considerable expertise and resources of the wider Morgan Sindall Group, which includes Morgan Sindall Investments Limited (MSIL), the urban regeneration company Muse Developments, and Lovell, the market leader affordable housing provider.

The service is driven by Morgan Sindall, a leading UK construction, infrastructure and design business, and is fundamentally flexible and education-led. Designs and the solutions required to get projects financed can be tailored to suit the individual circumstances of education authorities and providers. They are also applicable to either entirely new build or extension/refurbishment projects. Importantly, the schools have standardised elements to ensure cost effectiveness in the post James review era.

“We have a market leading position in education and have delivered 261 primary schools, 64 secondary schools and seven academies in the last three years,” says Graham Shennan, managing director of Morgan Sindall. “We’ve taken the time to look at what’s really important in education and settled upon a two-tier approach, where we can offer development solutions through Community Plus alongside a new range of model schools.”

Morgan Sindall has already begun engaging directly with local education authorities about Community Plus and the ways in which it can help deliver projects. MSIL, in particular, is a market leader in development of innovative funding solutions for public sector capital projects that can see projects delivered without central government funding. Funding options they provide include the increasingly prevalent asset backed vehicle and land swap arrangements in addition to leasing and project finance structures.

Nigel Badham, MSIL Director, said: “We have an established track record of enabling capital projects to be built that simply wouldn’t have happened without our ability to unlock the embedded value of public sector assets. In today’s budgetary environment for schools, access to funding is more important than ever. There is a clear need for innovative thinking which could well include unlocking the value of land assets that local authorities, free schools and academies already own. We can work on an estate-wide basis to help close the gap between aspiration and budgetary reality. Our approach has enabled the delivery of numerous major projects around the UK, including schools such as the New North Community Academy in Islington and sets our proposition apart in the marketplace.”

Jayne Hettle, Morgan Sindall’s director of education, commented: “It is certainly a pleasure to be able to unveil our new schools, which are the result of a great deal of consultation, research and thinking. We have taken the best elements of standardisation without creating solutions that are too rigid. The designs don’t just provide more affordable capital construction but are also energy efficient, costing the schools less to run, and coming with the benefit of reduced lifecycle costs. Efficiency is also integral to approach, minimising the time taken to deliver any type of school. We can achieve that without sacrificing design quality. We’ve been working with CABE and the Design Council to ensure that the designs will provide children with a truly high quality learning environment that can support the schools’ pedagogy and is easy to manage.”

By placing all the classrooms around the perimeter, Morgan Sindall has addressed the key issues that teachers cite in respect of when asked to consider what makes a good school building. These include abundant daylight for pupils; good air quality; comfortable room temperatures; plus the safe and visible circulation of children around buildings.

Given that both the curriculum and local demographics change over time, the flexibility and adaptability of space has been made paramount. Internal walls are easy to reposition, whether the project is an entirely new school or an extension.

The five initial options for primary schools can all be tailored to suit individual sites and clients. They cater for one to three form entry and were produced in partnership with Aedas, the leading international architectural practice.

The primary school designs employ a simple grid system and timber-engineered solutions. The Morgan Sindall approach splits Key Stage 1 and 2 with separate entrances and exits for children in the respective age groups. There is also a classroom flow that means pupils physically move through the building as they progress through the school years.

All of the primary school designs include a multi-function school hall and, at the centre, a large, flexible space which can be used for a variety of learning and play purposes. If required for community groups, this central hub can be zoned-off from the rest of the school to ensure safeguarding.

The secondary schools are based on a shell and core approach and built around a steel frame. The designs were created in partnership with Atkins, an architectural practice which has a long and successful track record in education.

The two building shapes – cluster and atria - provide for both site and organisational flexibility, and can cater for schools from 900 pupils to 1350 plus Sixth form. All of the teaching spaces are designed to be flexible and can be used whatever teaching style is being used. Classrooms are 60m2 in area and flexibility is achieved with internal walls that are easy to move by adjusting the length but not depth of the room.

“We will work with schools and other stakeholders to ensure that our approach delivers the very best learning environment for their particular needs,” said Jayne Hettle. “Our design approaches allow for the school buildings to respond to specific conditions of site. For example, to maximise the building’s orientation and avoid solar glare and heat gains, we are able to change orientation of roof lights and location of solar shading to windows.”

Morgan Sindall’s approach is centred around Building Information Models (BIM), the state-of-the-art system which delivers considerable benefits to customers in terms of a collaborative resource supporting the decision-making from the earliest conceptual stages.

The availability of the BIM models, which were developed by Morgan Sindall’s Professional Services business, means information is shared in a digital format amongst the key partners. The models are a 5D representation of the project – incorporating a 3D visual model, plus two other critical dimensions of cost and time. BIM, therefore, allows the key partners to make more informed choices and see their corresponding impact on the build programme. In this way, BIM is a superb enabler of better decision making, improved productivity, risk management and sustainability.

“During discussions with teachers, we are able to reconfigure classrooms and give teachers an immediate understanding and 3D representation of what the school will look like, how children will flow through the building, and the cost implications of all the choices involved,” added Jayne. “Our approach is tailored and makes sure that local authorities get the schools they want.”

In addition to design and build benefits, one of the main value-added applications of BIM is in the post-construction phase, through the on-going management of space utilisation, running costs and energy/carbon reduction. BIM tools and techniques are also a requirement for anyone bidding for public sector building contracts from 2016.

Graham Shennan, managing director of Morgan Sindall, added: “Improving the educational attainment of children and young adults is paramount to the future success of the UK. As the leading provider of buildings for education together with innovative funding options, we have put our very best teams together to work with customers to deliver what we believe is a fantastic solution.

“Our commitment to education remains a very important part of our offering and skill base. This is evidenced by our increasing market share in this sector. These new designs represent a significant milestone for Morgan Sindall as a business. We’ve already had an excellent response from the marketplace and our commitment to pull in the wider resources of our parent group underlines our determination to help local authorities produce high quality, cost-effective buildings for education.”