Morgan Sindall scores top marks for sustainability

5 May 2018

Preparing the central atrium space for the recycled timber gym flooring cladding

With 99.97% of waste diverted from landfill, a Morgan Sindall school scheme in South Wales has put circular economy principles into practice.

A Morgan Sindall school refurbishment in south Wales is setting new standards for sustainability. A remarkable 99.97% of waste has been diverted from landfill at Pentrehafod School, which falls under the Welsh Assembly’s £1.4bn 21st Century Schools and Education Programme. The client is City and County of Swansea Council.

The construction work, which began in November 2016 and will run until October 2018, is taking place on a live school site, meaning Morgan Sindall has to plan its programme around the activities of 1,000 students.

But the green credentials of the scheme are what stand out most. Despite the significant scale of the works, the project cost for the refurbishment is £16m, compared with the £24m estimated for an equivalent new-build.

With a target of zero waste to landfill, the circular economy model has underpinned the delivery of the project. It is one of Constructing Excellence Wales’ exemplar demonstration projects, and David Cheshire, author of Building Revolutions: Applying the Circular Economy to the Built Environment and regional director and sustainability lead at Aecom, has been consulted on the scheme.

“It’s about not looking at anything as waste, but always thinking about how we can reuse and recycle, and – just as importantly – leave a sustainable legacy that will facilitate similar endeavours in the future.”

Ross Williams, project manager, Morgan Sindall

Ross Williams, project manager at Morgan Sindall, says: “The school as it stood simply wasn’t suitable for 21st century teaching. There were design quirks that proved disruptive – such as classrooms doubling as thoroughfares.”

The refurb addresses these issues and eliminates the limitations of the existing fabric. For example, the two main school buildings are now connected with a double-height central atrium, which will form a focal point.

But what makes it really noteworthy is the attention to detail over reuse and recycling.

“We’ve aimed to reuse and recycle the materials we have found while retaining the existing structure wherever possible,” he says. “For example, the old gymnasium flooring – which retains all its court line markings – has been repurposed as cladding for the staff pod, and showcases the heritage of the school.

"Existing furniture has been collected, remanufactured and resupplied through our subcontractor, Ministry of Furniture.”

Morgan Sindall has also made use of the materials arising from demolition. “Walls and floors which were demolished were collected by local recycling firm Derwen who then returned it to site as processed aggregate, which is a good example of just how well a closed loop within the circular economy can work,” says Williams.

He adds that key to circular economy principles is ensuring that all new construction is carried out with one eye on how unnecessary waste can be prevented in future.

The project is achieving this through careful selection of materials and structures. “Loose-lay” flooring can be rolled up and sent for recycling, while internal walls of lightweight stud partitions with surface-mounted services allow the building to be easily adapted.

In addition, refurbishing rather than rebuilding has significantly lowered the carbon footprint. The main savings have arisen from retaining the foundations, floor structure and building envelope, which typically account for around 50% of a building’s embodied carbon.

Williams says: “It’s about not looking at anything as waste, but always thinking about how we can reuse and recycle, and – just as importantly – leave a sustainable legacy that will facilitate similar endeavours in the future. We’re not just lowering the carbon footprint of this building now. We’re ensuring it can be kept low in the future.”

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