In 2014, Denbighshire County Council announced plans to create a new state of the art school which would seek to provide the best possible start for children and young people in a modern setting. Funding was received from the Denbighshire County Council and the Welsh Assembly Government to construct a three-storey building capable of accommodating 1,200 pupils from the existing Rhyl High School and 45 pupils from the nearby Ysgol Tir Morfa community special education needs school.
A coordinated stakeholder engagement strategy added significant value to the project from concept design to completion. As part of the briefing process, all stakeholders, including teachers and pupils from both schools, were taken on a series of study visits before collaborating with the design team to develop their own unique solution.
The new school consists of 10,100m2 of internal space and a flexible, functional and sustainable external environment that inspires learning and promotes an active lifestyle. A central atrium welcomes visitors into the heart of the building, serving not only as the entrance and foyer, but also as a performance hall, dining area, circulation and social space.
Each subject area is organised around a central breakout space containing informal learning areas with natural light drawn in to each of these central spaces through large roof lights.
Outdoor facilities include hard and soft landscaped social areas for pupils, areas for outdoor learning, a multi-use games area, all-weather pitch and grassed pitches for summer and winter games.
Ramboll provided design management, structural engineering, building services, civil engineering, geotechnical and environmental engineering services.
Passive design strategy
It was a key aim of the client to minimise the buildings carbon emissions and energy consumption. Ramboll worked closely with AHR Architects, Willmott Dixon Construction and the client to develop the passive design strategy which was complemented with a range of on-site renewable energy technologies. The energy strategy solutions employed enhanced energy performance beyond the already stringent low carbon targets required under UK Building Regulations Part L. This was achieved using features such as site biomass heating system, air source heat pumps and photovoltaic panels.
The extensive photovoltaic panel array was installed on the school roof, harnessing solar radiation and converting it into useful electrical energy for use within the school. Coupled with the above implemented energy solutions, the schools heating system will derive around 80% of its thermal energy demands from a district biomass heating installation installed at the adjacent leisure centre site.
The energy metering strategy enables the raw energy consumption data not only to be used as a monitoring tool by the facilities management team but also by the school for educational purposes, helping establish a culture of energy awareness and sustainability to the students and staff alike.
Targeting BREEAM Excellent rating
To help achieve the targeted BREEAM Excellent rating, the project focussed on efficiency gains, sustainable construction methods and minimising the use of resources; with 97% of construction waste, 98% of demolition waste and 100% of excavation waste diverted from landfill.
The building fabric has been designed to be highly efficient; the outer skin comprises brickwork and rain screen cladding backed by insulation, vapor barrier and SFS system. This construction allowed weather tightness to be achieved in a short period with benefits to the construction programme whilst also achieving strict targets for air tightness and insulation U values. External windows were installed prior to the brick outer skin being completed allowing internal trades to progress weeks earlier than with traditional construction methods.
Project of the Year
Acknowledging the excellence in design and construction, Rhyl High School received the Project of the Year award at the 2016 Consortium of Local Authorities in Wales (CLAW) which focussed on sustainability, stakeholder engagement and the delivery of community benefits. The scheme ‘impressed the judges by its inventive design response to the site, and as an efficient and cost-effective solution.’
Councillor Julian Thompson-Hill, Cabinet Lead Member with responsibility for Assets, said: “The team submitted a bid for the Project of the Year award as it felt the partnership ethos, evident throughout the scheme was key to its success.”
Head teacher Claire Armistead commented: "I can't believe this is ours, it's amazing! You can't walk through here without seeing through every classroom, through every area. I can't imagine how well this turned out, it's beyond my best dream!"