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image of completed Highfields Spencer Academy in Derby

Morgan Sindall Construction completes ahead of schedule on 210-place modular Highfields Spencer Academy

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Morgan Sindall Construction has handed over a new 210-place modular primary school, which has been built in just nine months and handed over a week early, despite the logistical challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The £5.3 million Highfields Spencer Academy has been delivered under-budget for Derbyshire County Council in Littleover and will be governed by the Spencer Academy Trust.

Procured through the Scape Regional Construction framework (RCF), the project is the second example in as many years of a modular education scheme Morgan Sindall Construction has delivered in record time through the framework, further raising the bar for offsite school building.

Located on Tutbury Avenue, the new academy will provide 210 primary and nursery places to pupils aged 3 to 11 within the local area. Derbyshire County Council commissioned the scheme in anticipation of a population increase generated by Highfields Estate, the new build housing development near to the school.

Designed by Lungfish Architects, the single-storey, 15,510 square foot main building features seven general purpose classrooms, a reception, nursery and a double storey main hall. External facilities include a soft play area, a large playing field, and a MUGA pitch. Students will also benefit from a visitors’ garden and allotment area. There will be an additional parking area and cycle storage facilities.

Early engagement between all parties established the need for an efficient build process to deliver the school in time for the start of the academic year.

The council highlighted significant additional costs in relation to pupil transportation and temporary accommodation if that couldn’t be achieved.

An offsite build was identified as the best way to achieve this even before the coronavirus pandemic began to unfold, because of the comparative speed and the removal of many of the variables, such as the weather, which can impact traditional construction.

This decision was further vindicated as coronavirus-mandated social distancing guidelines came into force.

As much of the work on the 45 pre-fabricated modules was carried out offsite, within subcontractor Eco Modular’s factory in Hull, it could be completed safely and efficiently, unaffected by the logistical challenges facing many construction sites around the country. The school’s external framework arrived with the windows and roof sections already in place, while M&E fittings were also completed within the factory, reducing subcontractor traffic to site.

Work which needed to be completed onsite was done in line with government guidelines and all members of the supply chain worked collaboratively to ensure each other’s safety and wellbeing.

The result was a successful handover of keys which took place one week earlier than planned as well as being under-budget. An official opening event will take place later this year, following the beginning of the new academic term.

Rob Cant, framework director at Morgan Sindall Construction, said: “The case for modular construction in education has been growing for years. Efficiency, a reduction in embodied carbon, and future expandability have all been key drivers in the successful schools we’ve delivered in record time across the Midlands.
The logistical challenges posed by COVID-19 now add further weight to that argument. As this project demonstrates, offsite decreases subcontractor traffic and provides a factory-environment which reduces the need for close personal contact on-site.
Protecting our people and working collaboratively with our skilled supply chain remain key to our approach. Delivering Highfields Academy safely, and in such a short timeframe, has only been possible because of this ethos, and everyone involved should feel rightly proud.
The finished building undoubtedly enhances the education on offer to the local community taking shape around it and we’re incredibly pleased to hand it over early.”
Mark Robinson, Scape Group chief executive said: “This new primary school will have a significant benefit on the lives of young children and their families right across the Littleover community. This project is a perfect example of how modern methods of construction and framework delivery performance can help to accelerate much needed public sector assets. This project is testament to the hard work and collaborative efforts between Morgan Sindall Construction, Lungfish Architects and Derbyshire County Council.
We’re extremely proud that our framework and in-house architectural practice has helped to deliver the project in record time and under budget. We wish Highfields Spencer Academy every success as it prepares to open its doors to pupils for the first time this September.”
Simon Reid, managing director at Lungfish Architects, said: “With the development situated in the new Highfields housing estate, it was vital that the community was placed at the heart of the design process. From large windows and outside access in every classroom, to a spacious visitors’ garden that encourages parent gatherings whilst following social distancing guidance, our innovative but collaborative approach has allowed the school to embody a public square for the local residents.
Highfields Spencer Academy has the potential to leave a tangible legacy which challenges how construction is delivered in the education sector and demonstrates what is achievable when a community-led approach to design is adopted from the outset.”
Anna Jones, Principal at Highfields Spencer Academy, said: “We are over the moon with this beautiful building. Everything has been completed to such a high standard, ready for our new pupils, and Morgan Sindall Construction has built us a school that will truly stand proud as a centre for the new Highfields community. Parents, pupils and visitors have been wowed by the construction. We could not wish for more.”
  • For more information about this news release please contact Helena Young at Influential on 07708896211 or email [email protected]