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Robertsbridge Community College

Design and build (with SEN/ASD unit), plus refurbishment.

Project Details

Location

Robertsbridge, East Sussex

Client

East Sussex County Council

Project Manager

Architect

Miller Bourne

Structural Engineer

Stephen Wilson Partnership

Building Services Consultant

Baxall Delivery

Programme Period

21 weeks

Contract Value

£2,500,000
"To help address sensory requirements of pupils in the SEN/ASD unit, all the walls were soundproofed to a higher specification and a bespoke Sensory Room was created."
Procured under the ORBIS Framework on behalf of East Sussex County Council, Baxall undertook the logistically challenging design and build at Robertsbridge Community College to convert an existing Arts building into a new, state-of-the-art SEN/ASD unit, in addition to a new-build extension to create a brand-new Arts block. The scope of works also required the provision of a temporary mobile teaching unit to house the Arts department during the conversion.

The project was phased to mitigate disruption and disturbance to pupils’ learning whilst still achieving milestone dates for increased pupil numbers at the school. Phase 1 enabling works encompassed the installation of 4 temporary classrooms within the school grounds including concrete foundations, new electrical and IT services, attenuation tank for surface water, temporary footpaths and landscaping works. Next, the team converted an existing Art building into a modern SEN/ASD unit. Works included the isolation of incoming services, demolition of all internal walls and the installation of new partition walls to accommodate the new layout of the building.

To help address sensory requirements of pupils in the SEN/ASD unit all the walls were soundproofed to a higher specification and a bespoke Sensory Room was created. Achieving the acoustic rating for the SEN/ASD Unit was challenging as this was a refurbishment in an existing building. The design was constantly challenged and revised to ensure the materials specified had the correct acoustic properties and were quality-checked during installation. The test results were very positive and achieved above the required rating.

Phase 2 incorporated the design and build of a new, standalone two-storey building with 2 art classrooms, 2 general classrooms, offices and storerooms, constructed using MMC with brickwork to the first floor and sustainably sourced cedar cladding to roof level. Budgetary constraints meant value engineering was paramount; using MMC with factory-installed windows gave cost-efficiency, programme certainty and a host of quality benefits including reduced resources on site.

From the outset, seamless collaboration was key due to the complexity of the design and phasing of the works within the live school environment. Baxall’s project team established and maintained strong working relationships with the design team, school, supply chain and client. Access and  egress to the school were stringently controlled via close liaison with the school and pre-agreed delivery and collection times were collated in a schedule and fully adhered to by the supply chain to minimise any safety risk to pupils, staff and visitors. Working on site during the COVID-19 pandemic meant all site operatives followed Baxall’s enhanced strict H&S protocols including hygiene measures, strict social distancing and one-way systems on site; despite these challenges the project remained on programme.

Baxall’s team noted that the original design at RIBA Stage 2 for the new Art Block was an extension to the existing school in an isolated and challenging location, which did not represent best value for money or an ideal learning environment. Through close collaboration with the school, Baxall proposed to demolish an existing single-storey prefabricated building that was in a poor state of repair and use the footprint to construct the new Art Block. Baxall’s reworked design rendered the building more accessible for pupils, simpler to build and, through good design practice and cost control, provided 4 new classrooms (as opposed to the original 2).

In line with Baxall’s commitment to Government Soft Landings approach, the school’s caretaker/site manager met daily with Baxall’s Site Manager to review progress and engage with the supply chain to understand how to use and maintain the equipment being installed. Prior to Phase 1 handover, comprehensive training was carried out with the school’s facilities management team and a copy of the buildings O&Ms handed over in hard and electronic copies. While COVID  halted Baxall’s normally extensive community engagement and social value activities, the site team attended the school’s careers event prior to lockdown restrictions and still shared regular progress updates with the school’s stakeholder community via Twitter.

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