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Refurbishment of Pen Y Dre School Paves The Way For Future Construction Methods in Wales

  • Categories : Press Release
  • 09 May 2023
Pen Y Dre

Work is progressing at a significant refurbishment project at a school in Merthyr Tydfil which will pave the way for the future construction of educational facilities in Wales.  

Morgan Sindall Construction was appointed the contract for Pen Y Dre High School 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 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 that is enabling the contractor to support its customers to decarbonise local communities.

CarboniCa is part of Morgan Sindall’s Intelligent Solutions approach, bringing together digital and platform design capabilities with modern construction methods and innovative carbon reduction tools to create unique, sustainable, and inspiring places for customers. It measures whole life carbon emissions, ensuring potential carbon outputs can be managed and reduced during the design, construction and entire building lifecycle.

The contractor will take the existing frame and structure from the 50-year-old building and make it suitable for modern standards, working closely with civils and architects and employing the latest technology. 

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. 

Pen Y Dre 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.

The new design of the three-storey 14,000 sq metre comprehensive will make the 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, enhancing the school’s existing legacy for fantastic sport facilities. 

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. 

The main contractor will use its extensive experience in building educational facilities, including navigating live schools, and will build and handover Pen Y Dre in phases to avoid disruption to teaching. 

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 authoritto 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. 

“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. 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.” 

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: “We’re pleased and proud that Pen Y Dre is helping set standards for achieving net zero in Welsh schools.

“The Council has been working for a number of years towards meeting Welsh Government’s targets for the public sector to be carbon neutral, ensuring that all newbuild/refurbishment projects are completely energy efficient – our new bus station is the first fully-electrified one in Wales.

“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.”

Kurt Jones, Associate Lawray Architects said: “The pace of change in the industry means there are constantly evolving performance standards and acceptable parameters for Net Zero Carbon buildings. However, through the innovative design and construction of Pen Y Dre the team aims to advance the research and ambition of the industry’s approach towards the climate crisis. Our goal is to use Pen Y Dre as a precedent for future retrofit projects to achieve net zero carbon in operation.”

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.

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