To achieve net zero carbon in operation, the buildings will utilise biomass boilers and incorporate a large array of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels that harness renewable energy

Willmott Dixon has received the green light to start a £29m net-zero carbon school build at Silverwood School’s Rowde campus in North Wiltshire, extending the existing campus to provide a high-quality environment for 350 SEND pupils by September 2023.

To achieve net zero carbon in operation, the buildings will utilise biomass boilers and incorporate a large array of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels that harness renewable energy. The school will also use Willmott Dixon’s EnergySynergyTM service, which models energy performance target data against actual ‘in-use’ performance for three years, ensuring energy use targets set out at design stage are met when operational.

The project will also deliver extensive ecological enhancements, including improved natural grassland to increase the foraging resource for bats and other species, while hedgerows will be increased by more than 200% as part of an overall biodiversity net gain of 14%.

The Silverwood School project was given the green light after Wiltshire Council Strategic Planning Committee members voted unanimously to approve the plans, which have also been ratified by Natural England. Enabling works to prepare the site will begin in February 2022 with the start of the main construction works in March.

Procured using the SCF framework, the project will see the creation of a ‘school within a school’, delivering facilities to accommodate 350 SEND school places for early years, primary, secondary and post-16. The buildings will host a community of small teaching clusters that will provide a range of specialist teaching spaces, therapeutic support, and quiet dining.

Each cluster will be designed to offer plenty of space to move around while maximising natural daylight and ventilation to create an airy feel. Also planned is a hydrotherapy pool, a new all-weather sports pitch, new playing fields and landscaping.

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Cllr Jane Davies, Cabinet Member for SEND at Wiltshire Council said:

“This is an important milestone in ensuring we have enough places to create a first-class education for our SEND pupils. I’m delighted we can now start this important work. Our carefully thought out plans show how we will be mindful of the environment and rich nature on the site and the feedback from our school community and wider communities.
“We will continue to keep everyone involved as we embark on this important work and I look forward to seeing this exciting project evolve.”

Sean McKeown, Headteacher at Silverwood School said:

“This is great news for all pupils at Silverwood School – both those attending now and in the future. Our school community across all three campuses have been involved in shaping these plans and we all look forward to seeing plans on paper become excellent facilities which will make a real difference to all our pupils and help meet a real need for additional spaces for the future.”

Richard Poulter, managing director for Willmott Dixon’s Central South region said:

“We are delighted that planning has been approved. Our team have been working with all stakeholders on a building that provides those learning within its walls with a state-of-the-art facility that also adds to the surrounding community and environment.
“Sustainability is at the heart of our business and through our 2030 ‘Now or Never’ sustainability strategy, we have pledged that by the end of 2030 all our new buildings and major refurbishments will achieve net zero operational carbon. Through our work at Silverwood School, we are proud to be accelerating our commitment.”

Kingsley Clarke, Southern Construction Framework operations lead, said:

“This is a great example of how the education sector is being progressive in its approach to sustainability – where operational net zero is fast becoming the norm in construction projects. Early engagement and collaboration between the school, Wiltshire Council and Willmott Dixon has resulted in plans for a building which is fit for the future and will create a first class environment for the children of Silverwood School.”

The creation of school places for SEND pupils at Silverwood School is the latest in a proud history of delivering highly sustainable buildings for Willmott Dixon. The company is currently working with Spelthorne Borough Council to deliver the first Passivhaus accredited leisure centre in Greater London. Furthermore, the company is delivering a net-zero carbon retirement living village at Millfield Green for Inspired Villages, as well as ‘Halo’, the company’s second BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ certified office for Cubex in Bristol.

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