Following the government initiative to provide 30 hours of free childcare to families, Sunderland City Council knew they needed to increase their childcare provision. Backed in part by a grant from the Department for Education, the Council identified Barnes Infant Academy as a suitable candidate for more nursery places.
Both Barnes Infant and Junior schools occupy Grade II listed buildings; with slate roofs, terracotta dressings and bright red brick finishes that make them great examples of early 20th century construction. The one thing the infants school building did not have, however, was space for more classrooms.
The project was managed by Kier Services Maintenance North under the Scape framework. With the school operating at capacity, Kier approached the Wernick Group to discuss the possibility of a modular solution for the school, ultimately opting for a refurbished modular building.
Conscious of the significance of the surroundings, and keen to provide a bespoke service, the Wernick team sat down with the school to ensure they delivered a classroom that suited their needs. Designer, Kate Webster, told us; “Communication was key to getting the design right on this project. We took time to discuss the school’s requirements with Kier to make sure they were met. We provided photographs of previously completed buildings for the school, to help them make aesthetic decisions.”
The classroom would be placed under the canopy of a tree in the playground, and the design aimed to blend the building with this space as much as possible so as not to detract from the main school buildings. This was achieved with a timber effect cladding with dark grey window and door finishes.
The same tree that would provide a shelter for the new classroom was also one of the challenges faced during installation, alongside overhead powerlines and a narrow access road to site. Space on the site was so tight that a steel barrier in front of the school gates needed to be removed to provide access. The school’s playground also had to be protected from the delivery vehicles and cranes, so a trackway was laid to prevent any damage.
If this wasn’t enough, the team were also concerned for the classroom’s cladding during the installation. Kate explained; “Because the building had to be installed with slings, we were worried that the cladding on the gable walls would be damaged, so to protect the quality of the finish we arranged for the gable ends to be clad on site, after the installation had been completed.” Despite these challenges, the classrooms were delivered and completed on site in just over two weeks.
The completed building provided the school with classrooms, infant toilets, disabled facilities with drop down baby change, a small tea preparation area and storage space. The entrance lobby was fitted with barrier matting to reduce the risk of slips and trips and a suspended ceiling was fitted on site to finish off the traditional appearance of the classrooms.