Work is progressing on the first Net Zero school refurbishment in Wales.
Pen-Y-Dre High School in Merthyr Tydfil is one of the largest school refurbishments in Wales and will increase its capacity from 800 to 1,100 places for 11-to-16-year-olds.
Morgan Sindall Construction was appointed the contract by Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council last summer, which once complete will be the first major school refurbishment project delivering Net Zero carbon in operation in Wales.
The scheme is partially funded by the Welsh Government, as part of its Sustainable Communities for Learning Programme which aims to invest in and improve educational facilities.
The new design of the three-storey 14,000 sq metre comprehensive will make the 50-year-old school more accessible, removing a lot of steps from the original site and massively improving provisions.
Plans also include a refurb of the existing swimming pool which is open to the public.
Rob Williams, area director at Morgan Sindall Construction, said: “Pen Y Dre is a hugely important development for us, the local community, and Wales as a whole. It will be the first refurbished net zero school of its size which we believe will shift attitudes about demolishing and rebuilding existing facilities.
“We have made it our priority to engage with the school from the outset to educate them on sustainability, heat loss, and building efficiently to make sure that the efforts we put into constructing a carbon-friendly school are continued by those who use it.
“We will take a hand-in-glove approach with the local authority to deliver a state-of-the-art school which will inspire pupils and ensure disruption is kept to a minimum for the surrounding area and teaching. We will also collaboratively use Merthyr Tydfil’s knowledge on carbon targets with our expertise from other projects, such as recycling and reusing existing materials.”
Throughout the development, Morgan Sindall Construction will strive to ensure the building remains as carbon neutral as possible after handover through a range of workshops for teachers and pupils to educate them on sustainability and how to use the building efficiently.
“We also look forward to working with the school’s Eco Council, which is student-led, and have planned a series of workshops on sustainability and Net Zero,” added Williams.
“It is fantastic to see pupils display such passion and enthusiasm for the environment and the future of their school.
“We pride ourselves on nurturing the next generation of talent, and Pen Y Dre will be an exemplar project for apprentices to cut their teeth on a site from start to finish due to the length of construction works.”
The news follows an announcement from MPs, who have called for a cut in building demolitions to save carbon, instead prioritising retrofit and reuse of buildings over knock down and rebuild.
The project will see the use of CarboniCa, Morgan Sindall’s innovative digital carbon reduction tool, which measures whole life carbon emissions, ensuring potential carbon outputs can be managed and reduced during the design, construction and entire building lifecycle.
The design has been tailored for maximum reduction in carbon with the help of CarboniCa and will use air source heat pumps and mechanical electrical equipment, meaning the building will run without the use of fossil fuels. It also incorporates the reuse of materials and Morgan Sindall Construction has been able to provide a new IT suite for the school.
As part of Morgan Sindall Construction’s social value plan, it is committed to introduce pupils who may be vulnerable to not going into further education, training or employment by offering work placements and engaging with students from the start of the development.
The main contractor will also continue to back local suppliers throughout construction. To date, it has routed more than 90% of spend through Welsh subcontractors.
Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council cabinet member for education, Cllr Michelle Jones said: “Pen Y Dre High School has long been known for its high aspirations for all its learners. We are delighted the refurbished building will soon match these aspirations.”
The development was awarded through the £1bn South East & Mid Wales Collaborative Construction (SEWSCAP) Framework, as part of which the main contractor previously completed Pantycelyn Halls for Aberystwyth University.
The work at Pen Y Dre follows a flurry of activity in the region for the tier one contractor including works at King Henry VIII High School in Abergavenny and the completion of Haverfordwest High School.