Willmott Dixon completes UK’s first standardised school

Construction firm Willmott Dixon has completed the UK’s first new school to be built using a new generation of standardised designs.

Oakfield Primary School’s new £2.2m building in Rugby, Warwickshire, was officially opened yesterday (Monday 5 November) as the pupils returned after the half-term break.

Built using a new standardised system, called Sunesis, which uses ‘off-the-shelf’ designs to reduce costs and construction time, the 1,172 sq m building comprises seven classrooms, a hall, catering kitchen, learning street, staffroom and offices, and took just 32 weeks to build.

Willmott Dixon and local authority controlled procurement company Scape developed Sunesis to help local authorities reduce the cost of building new schools. Compared to traditional design and build, standardised schools can be built for up to 30 per cent less.

By procuring a pre-designed Sunesis school through Scape, which is at the forefront of driving down UK public sector building procurement costs, Warwickshire County Council reduced procurement time and fees associated with legal issues, feasibility studies, design and time spent at planning and procurement meetings.


Built in the 1950s, Oakfield needed to expand as many classes were already using additional temporary accommodation. The original plan was to extend the school at a cost of around £2m, but for an extra £200,000 and by using Sunesis it was able to build a new school.

A computer generated image of the new Oakfield Primary School building

John Harmon, assets strategy manager at Warwickshire County Council, said: “With the original budget, we were looking at extending and altering the current building, but analysis showed it wouldn’t be suitable for conversion into a 21st century school premises – a refurbishment option would have meant a poor learning space and the running costs would have been high.

“Rather than try and ‘make do and mend’, for a little bit more we got something much better – a modern flexible teaching and learning space, which minimises its impact on the environment both now and in the future. And we got it quickly too, which saved money.”

Peter Owen, managing director for Willmott Dixon in the Midlands, said: “Councils across the country are facing similar challenges: constrained finances and a boom in pupil numbers. Post the Government’s James Review of school buildings, Sunesis provides a new generation of affordable designs giving real value and quality for councils that need to improve learning space.

“We were delighted to be appointed by Warwickshire County Council to redevelop Oakfield Primary School and, using the Sunesis Keynes model, to provide a fantastic new learning environment for local children – all at less cost of a typical new primary school and delivered in record time.”

Mark Robinson, chief executive officer at Scape, said: “This is a real milestone – not just for Oakfield Primary and Warwickshire County Council, but also for the construction and education sectors.

“In partnership with Willmott Dixon, we’re pioneering a new approach to delivering high quality and affordable schools across the UK. We look forward to seeing how the pupils and teachers alike reach their full potential in this fantastic learning environment.”

Since Oakfield started on site, Southampton City Council and Isle of Wight Council have also opted for Sunesis schools and more are going through planning.

To watch a video of Oakfield Primary School’s new building being constructed got to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5J1U__Kxy5Y&list=UUIYqm4TuOlW7rzRJ_4KYBcw&index=1&feature=plcp


Picture caption:

Front row L-R: Lilee-Mae Sandison, Rahat Rahman, Mark Pawsey MP and Lois Craggs. Back row L-R: Steve Elkin, Development Director at Scape; BobAthroll, Education Sector Manager at Willmott Dixon, and Headteacher Heather Fielding


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