8 Tips for Ensuring a Successful School Project

8 Tips for Ensuring a Successful School Project

8 Tips for Ensuring a Successful School Project

Having undertaken many school construction and refurbishment projects we have learned that completing building work in schools poses a set of unique challenges both for the school and the contractor carrying out the work.

The obvious motivation for all schools in undertaking any building project is to enhance the facilities provided for their students but how is the unavoidable inconvenience of intrusive projects best managed?

Here are our 8 tips for ensuring a successful school project:

1. Planning and programming

Clearly the Christmas, Easter and Summer Holidays present the best opportunities to undertake intensive small and medium intrusive projects. Understanding the ‘Construction Process’ is essential for schools to successfully procure these smaller works.

Design > Specify > Measure > Estimate > Procure > Construct.

This process cannot be short cut. We always recommend schools allow sufficient time for each step of the construction process to ensure the clients requirements can be successfully met within these limited windows of opportunity. Larger projects also must follow the Construction Process but have no option but to span the school term and require in depth planning with regard to routes of access, segregation, decanting, disclosure compliance, health and safety, welfare provision and target completion and handover dates. All the issues need to be carefully planned by the architect, contractor and client in the design stage of the project and are just as important as the standard of work completed.

2. The 3 Key Individuals

Before construction commences on site, it is important for the school that communication and decision making arrangements are clearly defined. We recommend The 3 Key Individuals are appointed at the very early stages of the project:

The Architect’s Representative > The Contractor’s Site Manager > The School’s Representative.

The architect’s representative (or designer) may also be the contractor on a design and build project / small project: They are responsible for agreeing to day to day design decisions. The site manager is the day to day experienced manager appointed to run the project by the contractor: They are responsible for implementing day to day decisions. The school representative can be a head or deputy head teacher, an estate bursar, an experienced site manager, or the school business manager. They are responsible for instructing and confirming day to day decisions.

The essential point is that a single person is made responsible from each of the 3key parties appointed with suitable decision making powers on a day to day basis. Making decisions swiftly on a day to day basis will ensure targets and programmes are met. Clearly the project team may be much larger than 3 people and include engineers and consultants etc. but on a day to day level The 3 Key Individuals are essential to the timely success of the project.



3. Transparency and Communication

It is the role of the contractor to ensure the school has a clear understanding of the design and contract programme, be fully aware of the terms and conditions regarding the contractor’s working restrictions, health and safety and security. Transparency from the contractor is invaluable to a well- run project. School staff and pupils can be kept informed about the project through school assemblies and school notices.

4. Managing Disruption

The contractor will manage the health and safety and security aspects of the construction project however a certain degree of inconvenience is unavoidable. The level of disruption will depend on the scale and type of building operations, proximity to school activities, the time at which the works are carried out, and the constraints of the existing buildings and site.

The following examples are the most common disruptions reported by schools during construction projects:

Dust and dirt: Apart from being particularly uncomfortable, airborne dust and dirt can give rise to medical complaints and absences. Locating classrooms which require natural ventilation away from building activities and the constructing of seals in affected areas can help to minimise the ingress of dust and dirt. Additional cleaning for the school during the project should also be considered.

Noise: Co-ordination between the school and contractor on an informal basis can help reduce noise levels during particular times and in certain locations.

Increased vehicle and personnel traffic: In order to avoid continuing distraction it may be possible to locate certain classes and activities away from the main site access and construction works.

Access points and circulation routes: Changes in access arrangements can be disruptive and resource intensive and should be considered when agreeing the sequence of phasing of the works.

Utilities and services: Planning with the school if a particular service failure or disconnection occurs will allow the school to better manage these situations if they happen.

Reduced playground and car park space: The loss of amenities during the construction process is often a source of inconvenience. Again, early consultation provides the opportunity to investigate and implement alternatives.

The school will also have to consider its health and safety procedures throughout the project. Prior to construction a presentation to the school from the contractor on general site safety can be useful and can often have more impact than if it were delivered by the school team.

5. Health and Safety

Risk Assessments and Method Statements are to be constantly monitored by the contractor and the school. For example, alterations to fire escape routes and gathering points, access arrangements and site boundaries are to be clearly identified and signage amended as appropriate. It is recommended that fire drills are undertaken each time escape routes are changed.



6. Disclosure

In our experience each school interprets the disclosure guidelines in a different way. Contractors need to accommodate each school’s specific requirements and the school policy needs to be communicated early in the construction process so that the method of working can include these requirements.

Health and Safety and disclosure arrangements are rarely conflicting. Creating appropriate segregation by means of physical hoardings between pupils and workmen is the best way to ensure the safeguarding of pupils. All site management and key staff should be DSB checked and manage all deliveries and site staff on a daily basis. We find it useful if all staff wear company embossed hi-viz and carry company identification at all times.

Occasional breaches in procedures can occur, for example doors may be left unlocked and procedures need to be in place to report such incidents

7. Completion and Handover

The move into new facilities can present logistical challenges. It is recommended school staff are consulted and tour the new building prior to completion allowing them to understand the layout and working of the new building and undertake any necessary training. The process of introducing students into a new building will also require significant planning

8. Post Completion

Once occupied, a new or substantially refurbished building may present teething problems for some time. It is the contractor’s responsibility to ensure snagging and end of defect period repairs are completed efficiently and all statutory documentation is completed prior to the handover of the building. It is also important the contractor provides a point of contact for after care service to ensure a parachute for the school and its occupants whilst they get used to the new facility.

HBS school projects completed or on-going in 2014 include:

UCS – café / gym extension & relocation + office and classroom
refurbishments: £300k

Benhurst Primary School – 4 x extensions – £800k

Broadford Primary School– conversion of old kitchen block into 2 x classrooms – £150k

Wickford Primary School – construction of external walls, paving and brick steps – £10k

Branfil Primary School – classroom redecorations – £2k

Gidea Park Primary School – AC installations, redecorations, toilet refurbishment and construction of a PE kit storage facility – £60k

Hilldene Primary School – classroom redecorations – £5k

Danbury Park Primary School – Classroom refits – £50k

Southern Road Primary School – extensions and refurbishments – £200k

If you have any questions regarding any of the above, please do not hesitate to give Andrew Pratt a call on 01708 744 574

Registered & Head Office

Havering Building Specialists Ltd.
46-48 Brentwood Road,
Romford, Essex RM1 2EX
Phone: 01708 744 574

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