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Ultimately the quality and availability of education in towns and cities forms the bedrock for the future of the region

As the UK's leading school builder, we are experienced in delivering exceptional facilities for learning. School is the start of an education journey for young children and having the right environment is crucial. Children need to learn and play within warm and comforting surroundings, and with good access to playgrounds and other external areas.

In similar context is SEND schools. SEND school provision has been sorely lacking, with it often siloed by specialist need and thus spread thinly across a wide geographical area. Stories of pupils travelling more than an hour each way to a suitable school have been commonplace, putting huge amounts of pressure on both the children and their parents, in addition to financial strain on the local authority to cover the travel costs.

Building for all, our SEND white paper explores some of the ways in which local authorities have tackled this challenge, with an increasing focus on an ‘all-needs, all-through’ approach as we are seeing in practice with some of our customers.

Working closely with customers and key influencers such as the architect, we take a joined-up approach to school development, allowing us to understand the building, the landscape, and its interior, creating something that is a whole site and highly focused on delivering the needs of the end users. This approach ensures the schools are designed around the needs of the pupils, their parents and carers, and the staff at the school.

As with commercial buildings, schools are now under pressure to reduce their carbon emissions and we're now building more net-zero carbon schools than ever before.

Read some examples of how we've helped customers to meet their strategic goals around schools, including:

Hollycroft Primary School - Leicestershire's first net-zero school

Through early collaboration, we were able to work closely with Leicestershire County Council to get the best net-zero option for their needs and budget.

With plans to be a net-zero carbon county by 2045, the council could see how carbon needs to be treated as a currency alongside cost. We used our innovative tool, Energy Synergy™, to undertake advanced modelling.

Traditionally, tools like Energy Synergy™ are used to verify design decisions, not drive them. We flipped this model on its head to make sure we were finding the best options for Leicestershire County Council.

This approach means we've managed to design the best net-zero in operation building for the specific needs of the school. This includes being net-zero in operation for unregulated sources of energy, which is quite challenging to achieve. If we hadn't also included the unregulated sources of energy in our calculations, we would have been unable to identify that 381m2 was the correct PV array size required, which, ultimately, would have meant there was a shortfall in the renewable energy being produced.

Finally, we undertook an embodied carbon assessment to help the council choose which frame they wanted to use. The assessment compared a cross-laminated timber (CLT) frame with a traditional steel frame. Although it wasn't the cheapest option, the council opted to use a CLT frame as it came with a number of benefits, including: significantly lower embodied carbon, manufactured offsite, halved the projected erection programme and ensured quality.

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Creating Oakley School, a £61m all-through school in Warwickshire

Oakley School in Leamington Spa will be an all-through school, supporting children from Nursery all the way up to Secondary School. With an influx of new housing in the area, Warwickshire County Council recognised this was putting pressure on local schools and a new school would be required.

The new school will house a 34-place nursery, 420-place primary and 900-place secondary school. The design takes a fabric-first approach to reduce energy consumption and limit operational carbon emissions. There will also be air-source heat pumps and PV panels to provide renewable sources of heat and energy.

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Hackbridge Primary School: creating a Passivhaus 'plus' school

In the London Borough of Sutton, we have created the UK’s first Passivhaus ‘plus’ education facility. Meeting the Passivhaus ‘plus’ standard has involved creating one of greenest, most efficient schools in the world.

Following Passivhaus principles means the building has taken a fabric-first approach and is incredibly airtight. This reduces the need for heating and cooling as less air is able to leak in or out of the building, making it easier to maintain an ambient temperature internally.

To create renewable heat on site, the school uses ground source heat pumps for heating and cooling, and creates its renewable energy onsite through the extensive array of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels on the roof.

The 'plus' part of this building comes from the fact that the school is carbon positive, only using 75% of the 100% renewable energy that it generates on the site. The additional 25% is exported to the grid, saving around £800 a year.

On top of this, the school benefited from reduced embodied carbon emissions through the mindful selection of materials used in the school. Rather than using a tradition concrete frame, the school makes use of a Larsen truss timber frame. The ground floor of the school is made from 70% recycled GGBS concrete and the first floor is made of re-cycled glass scree. Finally, the insulation used in the building is made of recycled newspaper.

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Lincolnshire County Council's £100m SEND school programme

We’ve partnered with Lincolnshire County Council to help deliver upon their £100m Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) school investment programme.

The Council recognised that the best way to provide best-in-class education to SEND children was to make all of their SEND schools ‘all-through, all-needs’, making them the first county to do so. This means that children no longer have to travel to a school that meets their specialist requirements, instead, every school will be able to cater for every child’s needs.

Over the last few years, we have supported Lincolnshire County Council in delivering upon this trailblazing project and are continuing to do so.

As part of this, we have been refurbishing, extending and building new school facilities to meet the specialist requirements of the end-users.

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Getting net-zero ready at St Lawrence SEND School

The project we are currently working on for Lincolnshire County Council is creating a brand new, net-zero ready school. The existing building at St Lawrence SEND School was near end of life, so we advised the customer that a new building would be the best long-term value for their spend rather than to trying to refurbish the inefficient building that was already there.

This also means that the building will be in use when the Government's net-zero targets come into effect in 2050, so we have helped to future-proof this building for that eventuality. Although a full net-zero building wasn't an option, we have helped the customer to incorporate sustainable solutions where possible and put the infrastructure in place to make net-zero faster, easier and cheaper to reach in the future.

The new school takes a fabric-first approach to deliver an improved U-value, helping to make the building more energy efficient, and there is no gas on the site, with air source heat pumps providing the main source of heating.

We are also putting the infrastructure in place for a PV array to be added at a later date - ensuring the roof can take the additional weight and setting up the plant room to make connecting the panels significantly easier.

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For more information, contact our local expert

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