• IN THE NEWS: Paul Quinney speaks to Construction News Magazine
  • IN THE NEWS: Paul Quinney speaks to Construction News Magazine
  • IN THE NEWS: Paul Quinney speaks to Construction News Magazine
  • IN THE NEWS: Paul Quinney speaks to Construction News Magazine

IN THE NEWS: Paul Quinney speaks to Construction News Magazine

Earlier this month, our Operations Director, Paul Quinney, spoke to Construction News magazine about the prioritisation planning that schools need to embrace when they undertake refurbishment work.

You can read the full article below.

Refurbishment Priority Planning for ‘Cheque Book’ Schools

More schools are seeing the benefits of financial autonomy through bank account, or “Cheque Book”, status. For the first time, they’re making the decisions about mid- to long-term maintenance and repair of their buildings.

Setting Priorities

As a rule, I advise clients that it’s better to do the disruptive stuff first – structure and infrastructure –getting the building watertight and weatherproof before joinery, lighting and finishes. Otherwise schools could waste money on protection and replacement which could be better spent on the permanent works. And the use of the school facilities during that time will have a huge impact on the schedule for those works. No PTA would agree to heavy structural work during exams.

At Queensbridge School near Birmingham, weatherproofing really was their priority. The windows were single glazed and many didn’t open, meaning the South-facing parts of the school suffered extensively from overheating. Our immediate advice was to schedule repairs over three phases, starting with classrooms during school holidays.

Naturally, schools want to know how long they can expect the completed works to last before major works are required again. I advise usually 50 to 100 years for structural elements, up to 25 years for new windows, roofs and M&E services (with maintenance), and shorter periods for items that are subject to a lot of use and operation. Decoration of painted surfaces is usually every five to 10 years. A big part of my ‘Interim Estates Manager’ role is helping a school to understand the areas where they are prepared to compromise, and where the level of quality is key

It sounds too simplistic, but reducing current energy usage by turning off lights and equipment when not in use really makes sense, before spending any money on renewable energy. Many school buildings have poor insulation, traditional lighting and inefficient heating systems, largely due to their age. Costs for replacing and upgrading these aspects can vary significantly, but most energy efficiency measures will eventually pay for themselves through the saving they generate from reduced energy bills.

Queensbridge School can expect a significant saving in their energy bills as a result of the anti sun glass and insulated glazed panels we installed. Harbury Pre-school in Warwickshire installed rain water collection pipes to water their planters, and the energy efficiency measures in their extension block included double glazing, insulation, energy efficient lighting and ventilation.

It’s important to encourage schools to challenge their expectations until they find the answers convincing and they understand. We professionals don’t always communicate effectively, so we really have to speak their language to get the answers schools need. Questions I ask might include:

  • Is the current accommodation large enough for future demand?
  • Do the buildings meet DDA and other regulations?
  • Do current and future forecasts of pupil numbers indicate sufficient spaces to teach the curriculum?

Managing Budget

Very simply, the question to ask is, “How much will it cost, and how much will it save in the next financial year(s)?”

When schools are balancing the books themselves, they are naturally cautious. Expensive programmes like structural change, renewal or change of services infrastructure, or replacing equipment, and temporary works can eat into the budget quickly. The changing political landscape always poses a challenge for the Public Sector, but in this sense schools operate more like private clients, and it’s inherent on me to ensure they understand whole life costs. To do this, I:

  • Record clearly what they want to achieve
  • Ensure that the school’s requirements are prioritised into ‘core’ objectives, ‘nice to haves’ and ‘bonus’ elements
  • Check that whoever is monitoring the costs of the project can explain clearly why things cost what they do and how cost estimates have been prepared. The school can then understand the impact of decisions and suggest ways that their objectives can be achieved with less cost

Managing Expectations

  1. 1.       Sometimes refurbishment can show up areas which previously looked acceptable, as they might look more tired and dated than they did before. If schools are only considering changing some areas of the site, it might be worth considering ‘grading’ the appearance of the work, to make the transition between old and new more gradual.
  1. 2.       It ‘s important to make sure that everyone connected with the project has a common understanding of what is being proposed and so it’s better to use simple terms wherever possible. For example, if all that is required or on offer is a lick of paint, “redecorate” or “refresh” can avoid misunderstandings or disappointment.
  1. 3.       Construction projects offer good opportunities for students to gain insight into a whole range of subjects, including management, plumbing, energy, architecture and the future of the planet. The design team and contractor are often willing to make presentations and help make the project interesting. It also makes for an excellent PR opportunity, which can generate real support from the local community
  1. 4.       Planning consent can play a major part in the options available for a school, depending on the myriad of influencing factors that apply, and this can be helped or hindered by the views of neighbours and residents

Paul Quinney, Operations Director

Allen Construction Consultancy

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