Willmott Dixon and Scape’s solution to cut the cost of building new schools by up to 50 per cent is gaining real momentum with Southampton City Council the latest local authority to opt for their standardised Sunesis concept.

Sunesis is Willmott Dixon and Scape’s brand for a new generation of pre-designed primary and secondary schools available at a fixed price that aim to achieve a build cost per pupil of £8,500 - £10,000 against a typical school cost per pupil range of £15,000 - £20,000. There are four Sunesis models for primary schools - Keynes, Newton, Paxton and Dewey - and one, the Mondrian, for secondary schools.

Southampton is to invest approximately £13 million in three Dewey models, to provide new accommodation for three schools; Wordsworth Infant school, Banister Infant and Nursery school and Moorlands Primary School. The Dewey models will provide bright, modern new learning environments for pupils replacing old, time expired accommodation.

All three projects vary in size, with Wordsmith, on site in August, a three form entry new build, Banister a two form entry new build and Moorlands a one form entry extension, reflecting Dewey’s flexibility to meet different entry form needs.

Another benefit is the fast build time with each school complete within a year. This compares with a previous build time of between 18 and 24 months from initial planning and procurement stage.

Oliver Gill, strategy & capital programme manager from Southampton City Council says, “The recent surge in birth rates has necessitated our need to undertake a rapid expansion of capacity in primary school places. In order to deliver best value from the DfE funding targeted at meeting this need, we have done significant research into the concept of design standardisation and opportunities available in the marketplace. This research and market engagement resulted in our deciding to procure the Sunesis school model via Scape for our three largest primary expansions.

“Adopting this approach has served to significantly reduce the time that the authority has spent in design and procurement, thereby expediting the delivery of the buildings and reducing the associated cost. As a consequence, we have been able to deliver new build solutions for schools where this had previously been thought impossible within the available funding. Simply put, it’s a far better way of doing business.”

Southampton’s decision comes hot on the heels of Warwickshire County Council selecting the Keynes model in the Sunesis range for a new school in Rugby, when previously its budget would only have afforded a refurbishment and extension.

By procuring a pre-designed Sunesis school through Scape, a local authority controlled company at the forefront of driving down UK public sector building procurement costs, Warwickshire reduced procurement time and fees associated with legal issues, feasibility studies, design and time spent at planning and procurement meetings. The total time saving for the authority is around 12 months, and it was for these reasons that Southampton turned to Sunesis to solve its need for three new schools.

Currently there are over £120 million of inquiries for Sunesis schools, with many awaiting planning approval before work starts on site. The concept is an example of how Willmott Dixon and Scape are responding to the ‘more for less’ agenda faced by councils by offering solutions that make budgets stretch further.

Mark Robinson, Chief Executive Officer of the public procurement organisation Scape, commented: “This milestone paves the way for a quicker, more efficient and highly cost-effective delivery of three quality educational facilities. It’s fantastic that Southampton has recognised the potential of Sunesis, and we look forward to working closely with Willmott Dixon and all partners to deliver an improved environment for pupils and staff alike.”

John Frankiewicz, CEO for Willmott Dixon Capital Works said, “We are delighted that Southampton has decided to use Sunesis to provide new homes for three schools. The schools will be thermally efficient to reduce running costs, combining a well designed, quality product with high energy efficiency in operation. Willmott Dixon and Scape are committed to providing real, workable solutions to councils who want their budgets, already under much pressure, to go even further.”

Each Sunesis model can be viewed on the website www.sunesisbuild.co.uk, allowing the procurer to see a model’s standard price and the optional extras they might require.