Leadbitter delivers Newport School for the future
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Newport High School
Newport High School is proving that the combination of design, building expertise, effective partnership and community engagement can deliver a school which meets a diverse selection of demands...
Today's schools face an evergrowing list of demands on the facilities they offer.
They must meet the needs of today's students - with flexible design and technology that enables a wide variety of teaching methods - yet be adaptable to meet the as-yet-unknown needs of students far in the future.
From both an environmental and operational point of view, they must be sustainable, offering low maintenance and running costs.
They are also called upon to be resources for the local community, offering educational and leisure facilities, not just to students during the school day, but to residents of the area during the day, evenings and weekends.
In many cases, schools are acting as catalysts for community development and cohesion, helping to address social issues in deprived areas.
Is it possible for any school to meet such a diverse list of requirements? Designed by HLM Architects and constructed by the Leadbitter Group for Newport City Council, Newport High School offers advanced teaching facilities, with classrooms, science labs, ICT suites, a fully-equipped design technology wing, SEN areas and a vocational training learning and resource centre.
In addition, it includes an Active Living Centre, featuring state-of-the-art leisure facilities, including a 25m swimming pool, fitness suite, full-size artificial turf pitch, multi-use games area and sports pitches.
Located in a deprived area of Newport, designated a Communities First area by the Welsh Assembly Government, it was critical that the school be an educational facility and community hub.
The new school was purposely located at the front of the site with a welcoming piazza-style frontage providing a public open space.
An open environment with plentiful natural light was achieved via a curved main circulation hallway with five wings.
Each fully-secure, two-storey wing features flexible classrooms and a central atrium, allowing the spaces to adapt to various subjects and teaching methods.
The student population is segregated from community users by the placement of all community accessible facilities in one wing.
Students enter via the main entrance and are funnelled to their classrooms, while users of the Active Living Centre are directed to a separate reception area at the entrance to the sports wing.
Innovative features within the construction of the building, include the use of hard-wearing, easy-tomaintain, polished blockwork in the ground floor corridors, as well as open plan unisex toilets with individual cubicles and central wash stations, which serve as an effective means of curbing social problems such as bullying.
The project was a best practice case study in partnering, with close collaboration between the client, design team, contractor and school officials, delivering a bespoke facility of the highest calibre on time and within budget.
Leadbitter's site team regularly met with the client representative and the school's headteacher and transition coordinator throughout the project.
Haydn Ames, secondary schools redevelopment client project manager for Newport City Council, was working full-time on the project and was involved in everything from selection of specialist subcontractors to finalizing the detailed FFandE requirements, as well as liaising with the school staff.
The project itself was selected as a Constructing Excellence in Wales demonstration project for being a real-life example of Constructing Excellence principles at work.
This spirit of partnership and close collaboration was particularly important when the council lost funding part way through the project due to the recession - meaning that funds were insufficient to cover all fitting-out costs.
Leadbitter worked closely with the client and design team to make specification savings and simplify construction details, which reduced construction costs and released money to pay for essential fit-out items.
Another key to the success of the project was the high level of community engagement Leadbitter sustained throughout.
Every feeder school received Leadbitter's Safe Play At All Times presentation and visited the site at least twice, utilizing a specially-constructed viewing platform to safely observe the site.
Quarterly newsletters, monthly surgeries and a dedicated community room kept students, staff, parents and the local community apprised of progress.
Special events such as time capsule burial, future students signing a steel beam used in construction and topping out, were held at key milestones.
Leadbitter also held an open briefing meeting for potential subcontractors and suppliers, targeting over 100 local companies with direct mail shots and adverts in local papers.
33 per cent of all subcontractors appointed were employed as a result of this initiative, leading to an average of 45 per cent local labour employed across all trades throughout the contract (reaching as high as 52 per cent in month 13 of the contract).
In terms of sustainability, Newport High School is the first secondary school in Wales to achieve a BREEAM Excellent rating, scoring 73 per cent overall.
Developed for optimum efficiency, the building is air-tight, which required bespoke detailing of the envelope, and exploits natural ventilation.
The school's heating and power needs are met using a combined heat and power (CHP) system, solar water heating and thermal storage, resulting in 20 per cent improvement above the CO2 emissions performance required by the Building Regulations.
Other sustainable features include rainwater harvesting, greywater recycling and sustainable drainage systems.
Panels mounted in the main corridor display the amount of savings generated by the solar and greywater facilities.
Partnership was again critical to delivering such a sustainable building, with Leadbitter organising an inaugural workshop for the project team, including the design team, to present information on sustainable energy systems which enabled informed decisions to be made by the team.
In addition, Newport High School was the pilot project for Leadbitter's Project Waste Management Plan (PWMP), which identified actions to reduce waste, re-use materials and segregate waste streams to facilitate recycling, such as finding local outlets for damaged bricks, timber off-cuts and pallets that were no longer needed on site and reusing all topsoil and large quantities of excavated material on site.
Out of all the waste generated throughout construction, only 10 per cent was eventually sent to landfill.
As a result of these efforts, the project received a Constructing Excellence In Wales Award for Waste Minimisation and Management.
Even the existing Bettws High School is being recycled.
White goods from the old school were donated to organisations in Africa, with Leadbitter sponsoring the shipping, and recycled materials from demolition will be used to build another new school in Newport.
Using a two-stage NEC target cost contract, the entire process took only two years and three months from appointment to handover and was completed on time and within the target cost.
In fact, through strict cost control and focus on achieving best value, Leadbitter was able to reduce the build cost by over GBP1m - savings that are going back into the council's education budget and will benefit a second school planned for construction on the other side of Newport.
Most gratifying is that completion of this new facility, which officially opened to students in November 2009, has transformed the school from one with a variety of social issues and declining student population, into an over-subscribed school where the building itself furthers the innovative methods employed by the teaching staff.
Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with additional awards bestowed on the school, such as the 2010 Newport Building Excellence Award for Public/Community Buildings and a Highly Commended certificate at the 2010 National Built In Quality Awards for South Wales.
Haydn Ames concluded: "Capturing the expertise of the contractor and the supply chain, the scheme created a strong collaborative working relationship amongst the design and contractor teams and ensured a successful project, which has received very positive feedback from students, staff and community organisations."
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