Liverpool council to build ‘easy to convert’ schools

Liverpool council is responding to the recommendations of the Sebastian James Review on standardisation and cost reduction by seeking to build four secondary schools that can be housed in airport terminal-style structures and easily converted for commercial use as local demographics shift. The structures, on which Aecom and Davis Langdon provided structural, ME, facilities management and cost modelling advice, consist of a standardised shell undergirded by glulam structural beams.

Designed by Norwegian practice Biong Arkitekter, the structures are commonly seen in airports and sporting arenas. The interior can be detached from the shell and contains modular units that can be re-arranged and dismantled quickly and cheaply.

The local authority, which had £350m of schools funding cut when Building Schools for the Future (BSF) was axed last year, is looking to the private sector, capital receipts from the sale of land and potential education department funding to provide the estimated £60m for four new schools in the north of the city, to house about 1,000 pupils each.

“Liverpool has experienced 12 years of falling pupil numbers and now they’re building up again but in different areas,” said Ron Rampling, BSF project director.

“These models mean that if for some reason the population shifts, what you’re left with is not a duff school but a very attractive commercial space. This de-risks the investment the council puts into new schools,” he added.

Although the specific cost is yet to be determined, Bryanston Square, the consultancy behind the concept, estimates that the use of cheaper modular units within the shell means the cost would be about half the £2,050/m2 ballpark on BSF projects.

It is thought that Willmott Dixon, through the single-contractor Scape framework, would be the most likely candidate to do the design and build on the new concept.