Work officially begins on UK’s first standardised school

(L-R): Peter Owen, Willmott Dixon, Cllr David Wright, Heather Fielding, head teacher at Oakfield Primary School, and Mark Pawsey MP.

Work has started on a new £2.2m primary school in Rugby, Warwickshire.

The first turf has been dug to officially mark the start of construction of Oakfield Primary School’s new building.

The school is the first to be built in the UK using a new standardised system that uses ‘off-the-shelf’ designs to reduce costs and construction time.

Construction firm Willmott Dixon and Scape, a local authority controlled company, launched the system, called Sunesis, last year.

Warwickhshire County Council is the first local authority to commission Willmott Dixon and Scape to build a new school using Sunesis. The new building will be constructed using the Keynes model from the Sunesis standardised range and will replace the school’s exisiting 1950s buildings, which the school has outgrown due to increased demand for places.

The cost savings delivered by Sunesis – up to a third of the cost of a bespoke design – meant that the school could have an entire new building instead of just adding an extension.

The building is scheduled to be completed in time for the new school year in September.

Councillor David Wright (Con, Bilton), portfolio holder for resources and corporate governance for Warwickshire County Council, and chair of governors at Oakfield Primary School, attended the ground-breaking ceremony along with Peter Owen, Willmott Dixon’s managing director for the MIdlands, Mark Pawsey, MP for Rugby, and Mark Robinson, chief executive of Scape.

Cllr Wright said: “Sunesis has enabled us to reduce fees associated with legal issues, feasibility studies and design processes so we could afford to build a new structure, rather than a small extension on the existing building. There’s no other comparable product that can deliver a fully designed school to meet the fast track programme we need and we’re pleased to lead its implementation in Warwickshire.”

Peter Owen said: “This is a great example of how Willmott Dixon is tackling the ‘more for less’ agenda to help our clients make their budgets go further. We are delighted that Warwickshire can achieve an entire new building when previously their budget would only have delivered a refurbishment.

“That is just how the proactive approach both Willmott Dixon and Scape are using is helping to deliver real value to our customers’ investment.

“We’re also using Sunesis in new sectors like leisure and aim to save the public sector purse nearly £30 million in the next few years without compromising on quality or operating costs, which will be low based on the high energy efficiency of our Sunesis buildings.

“Warwickshire Count Council is a trailblazer for the new era of innovative thinking and we must applaud them for having the foresight and imagination to be the first to use our standardised concept; while others will follow, you need a leader and Warwickshire Council have shown leadership that has made it possible to be here today to mark this ground-breaking event.”

The Sunesis range includes the Newton, Paxton, Dewey and Keynes, which are aimed at primary schools, and the Mondrian for secondary schools.

The Design Council CABE has endorsed the Keynes model. The Government body, which promotes design and architecture for the public good, said it was a “valuable response to the challenges of delivering new schools”.

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