Independent school Ewell Castle in Surrey caters for pupils from nursery through to sixth form. In 2013, it embarked on an ambitious programme to replace its existing nursery school with a new facility built offsite.
Located in a conservation area and close to listed buildings, the old nursery needed to be demolished and replaced with the new classroom over the summer break, to ensure minimum teaching downtime and disruption to classes.
In May 2013, the school appointed Roan Building Solutions to design and build an offsite nursery, which would replace the existing building with a more modern facility. It needed to aesthetically fit within the existing landscape and completion prior to the September intake was essential.
Michelle Phillips, headteacher of Ewell Castle Junior School and Nursery, says: “Roan was able to provide a bespoke solution in a timescale we did not think was possible. On the last day of term we were still teaching in the old building, but when we returned, the transformation was beyond our expectation.
“They took our dream and delivered an even better reality. The quality of the building is outstanding and all of our 200 children are able to use the facility. The parents are delighted with the outcome.”
Working in partnership with Ewell Castle School and BH & M Architects, Roan constructed the 270sqm building at its manufacturing facility before transporting to site for completion.
Comprising of nine modular sections, the new nursery was designed with heat-treated Nordic timber cladding, rather than cedar and a dual-pitched standing seam roof, devised to blend with the surrounding area.
The project included the demolition and removal of the existing nursery, all groundwork and civils before starting the new build, but it had its challenges.
“Although offsite build is proving increasingly popular in the education sector, the new nursery at Ewell threw up many interesting issues, not from a build perspective, but working within the existing landscape,” says Matthew Goff, UK sales director at Roan.
“All of our units are built offsite, so all we need is access to enable construction to take place. At Ewell School, the existing building had been there for over 30 years and was surrounded by mature trees, which had grown around it.
“Many of these trees were protected, which meant direct access was a problem from a transport perspective, and getting the modules on-site as well as utilising a crane to put them in place. A special trackway had to be designed to ensure equipment could be moved on site safely and without causing any damage to the protected trees.
“To gain access, a temporary parking restriction was put in place while we dismantled and then reassembled a 12th century stone wall. The former nursery was also close to a listed building with basements, so we needed to ensure that the foundations did not compromise the existing infrastructure in any way, as well as protect tree roots.”
The new nursery cost under £1,300 per square metre, which included all the demolition groundwork, civils and the building itself. Comprising an open plan layout, which can be divided with a sliding partition to create two classrooms, it includes dimmable lighting and spotlights which are integrated into the suspended ceiling.
From design to completed build the whole process took just 12 weeks. Although cost-comparative with a traditional build, offsite buildings are adaptable, flexible and time-efficient as they can be utilised far quicker.
“Our ultimate aim was to have a building that was multi-functional, in keeping with our values and accessible to everyone,” says Mrs Phillips. “What we have, in the space of just six weeks, is not just a nursery but an area where we hold events and assemblies, and is a fantastic edition to the facilities we already provide.”