The Priority School Building Programme (PSBP) was launched in May 2012 with the promise to address the needs of schools across the country. In May 2014 plans were announced for a second phase of the programme, PSBP2, focusing on individual school buildings or blocks that are in critical condition, rather than rebuilding or refurbishing entire schools. A total of £2 billion has been invested in the programme with a batch of 277 schools planned to have at least one of their buildings or blocks rebuilt or refurbished by 2015.
PSBP2 calls for a fast, lean and cost effective method of construction, as all schools within the programme are scheduled to be delivered by the end of 2017. Nick Milestone, Managing Director of B & K Structures has extensive experience in creating sustainable and pioneering structures for educational establishments. Here, he shares his views about why cross laminated timber provides the ideal structural solution and why so many schools under the PSPB banner are benefitting from this innovative solution:
“Building a successful school environment involves the integration of a range of different components. These include structuring the building around the needs of the curriculum and the local community – providing flexible and adaptable spaces with the capacity for public use – creating warm and inviting spaces that help to inspire learning.
Timber has become a valuable tool for enhancing education environments. Manufactured as an offsite solution, timber is factory manufactured to exceptional levels of accuracy, ensuring minimal defects. This improves procurement, construction and project delivery timescales as well as reducing costs, saving money and maximising efficiency on all levels. It is fast becoming the material of choice for specifiers due to its inherent structural qualities. These qualities include speed of construction, airtightness and carbon sequestration, minimisation of onsite health and safety, as well as its effect on internal environments when left exposed.
Exposed CLT creates a natural, inviting and calming environment, it can also enhance acoustic properties. When used in educational environments, cross laminated timber generates a peaceful space for effective teaching and delivers schools that are cost effective and adaptable for future adjustment.
Cost is a key factor in the government’s plans for the creation of new schools. The government’s “more for less” strategy involves a considerable degree of standardisation across new build schools, particularly in reference to architecture and layout – providing the opportunity for the benefits of factory manufactured cross laminated timber to be fully exploited. Offsite manufactured CLT has proven to be an ideal material for constructing schools through applying standardisation to enable a faster, more effective roll out of construction. Cost comparison in educational buildings has to be carried out at a ‘whole project’ level. Thermal, acoustic and airtightness contributions from the structural frame, as well as programme savings and the cost benefits associated with offsite manufactured systems, must all be taken into account when comparing the commercial benefit of one structural material against another.
There is currently a large increase in demographics across the country, leaving schools with a severe lack of places. The impact of this can be immense and in some cases, difficult to predict and cater for. This drives the rapid requirement for new educational establishments with an inherent adaptable design that can accommodate intake fluctuations. It is now crucial to design and create schools that incorporate a consideration for the cost and disruption associated with modifications to the building in the future. Buildings must be designed to provide structural adaptability from the outset in order to allow for the possible removal or addition of walls and floors. Cross laminated timber can help to create a structure that provides flexible properties for future changes to the building.
As many of the buildings constructed under PSBP2 are built on functioning sites the challenge is often to demolish the existing school enabling the new build to take place, all while maintaining an educational facility onsite until the new school is complete and ready for handover. This makes onsite health and safety a crucial consideration throughout the build. Health and safety disruptions can include airborne dust and dirt which can lead to medical complaints, excessive noise that can not only be distracting for staff and pupils but can also be a health hazard, increased traffic with delivery vehicles arriving onsite as well as planned and unplanned interruptions to water, gas and power services. Frequent changes to access points and circulation routes for school users along with reduced playground space, loss of playing fields and car parking can lead to overcrowding. By applying fast and efficient offsite technology, supported by a robust logistic plan to minimise both deliveries and onsite waste – disruption is able to be kept to a minimum, therefore reducing health and safety risks.
The benefits of the use of cross laminated timber in education buildings are now becoming widely recognised. With the rapid construction of schools under PSBP2, cross laminated timber provides a cost effective, sustainable, safe and effective solution.”
B & K Structures and Binderholz formed the X-LAM Alliance in 2011 bringing to the UK construction market a seamless and consistent way to supply cross laminated timber. From concept to completion, the Alliance has all the essential knowledge and data to create solid wood structures from design through to installation.
B & K Structures is the UK’s leading solid timber structural specialist contractor. The company has pioneered the use of structural timber in the UK, creating award winning buildings in retail, commercial, residential, transport, sports and leisure and healthcare sectors. www.bkstructures.co.uk
Binderholz is an Austrian specialist timber manufacturing organisation with five production plants across the country employing in excess of 1,150 staff. In 2012 Binderholz produced the most cross laminated timber in the world.