New school building model addresses urgent need for more school places

  • New solution from Wates and Capita Symonds cuts construction phase of new school delivery from typically 60 weeks to just 36 weeks
  • Includes a solution for converting existing buildings, such as vacant offices, for use as primary and secondary schools
  • Efficient design and procurement can save over £1,000 per sq m, cutting the cost of a new primary school from typically £4.5 million to just £2.38 million
  • Standardised designs can be tailored to local needs

New school spaces can now be delivered up to 60% cheaper through a groundbreaking new model which enables existing buildings such as offices, including vacant or distressed properties, to be adapted for use as schools while significantly reducing the cost of new school buildings.

The first model of its kind, Adapt Schools Solutions - from leading education contractor Wates and design and infrastructure consultancy Capita Symonds - provides four educationally led, blueprint designs for 21st-century schools that can be implemented at any suitable site in the UK.

With a shortfall of 70,000 school places expected in London alone over the next four years, the blueprints will enable schools and cash-strapped local authorities to address the urgent need for more capacity.[1] 3,444 primary schools in the UK are already at or over capacity and the primary school population is growing.[2] Adapt helps address this problem: the construction phase of new school delivery can be up to 50% shorter, with the cost of a typical primary school cut from around £4.5 million to just £2.38 million, for example.

Through faster design and pre-construction phases, shorter on-site construction periods, lower design fees and easier maintenance, the solutions could create capital savings of 40% for new-build and 60% for refurbished, alternative buildings. The model has been shaped by Wates’ work at Campsmount Technology College in Doncaster, the pilot project which underpinned the efficiency recommendations in the James Review.

As well as reducing the cost of new school buildings, Adapt provides a blueprint for the conversion of existing, alternative buildings such as offices and retail centres to create new school spaces and regenerate communities. With a significant proportion of local government estate currently vacant and with limited prospects for asset sales in flagging regional office markets, the solution will allow councils to make more effective use of their property while improving the quality of educational facilities for local children.

Steve Beechey, Head of Education at Wates, comments: “Against a backdrop of reduced funding, and with student numbers reaching near-critical levels in some parts of the country, there is an urgent need for a more efficient and cost-effective way to deliver school places. The UK needs to spend £8.5bn simply to repair existing school buildings which have fallen into disrepair and this money could be put to far better use in delivering the new and refurbished facilities we desperately need.[3]

“The Adapt model will empower local authorities to meet cost-cutting objectives through all the benefits of a standardised approach, without sacrificing the ability to tailor individual schools to local requirements.”

Jane Longfield, Education Director at Capita Symonds, adds: “We believe that Adapt represents a step-change in the way schools are designed and constructed. Our blueprints have been developed to create 21st-century learning environments, even on constrained sites or using alternative buildings.

“The designs are based on using standardised spaces, which can be reconfigured and customised to suit a wide range of different sites, buildings, layouts and adjacencies. We are providing a framework which can deliver robust, fit-for-purpose and flexible schools, just about anywhere.”

[1] According to London Councils, April 2011

[2] According to PfS, January 2011

[3] Financial Times, 25th March 2011