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When the Sebastian James Review highlighted a need to achieve greater efficiency in school building projects through standardisation, the report would ultimately lead to the creation of Sunesis.

Scape, a lightweight steel frame manufacturer owned in equal shares by Derby City, Derbyshire County, Gateshead, Nottingham City, Nottinghamshire County and Warwickshire County Councils, had reappointed Willmott Dixon to its national contractors framework in 2010.

Out of that reappointment came Sunesis, a joint venture between the two companies. Scape chief executive officer Mark Robinson says: “Cost certainty in the challenging financial climate is a critical factor for local authorities in delivering quality buildings within limited budgets. Through Sunesis, we’ve cut out a huge amount of waste so that projects can be delivered quickly and very competitively.

So far, the idea has been used to develop four primary school models, one secondary school model and a model for a leisure centre. Each of these models can be varied depending on client demands.

Keynes School Internal ImageThe four primary school designs have each been developed for a different type of market. These models are known as Keynes, Dewey, Newton and Paxton. 

Atkins is also working with Willmott Dixon and SCAPE on the Keynes, which is an entry level primary school starting at £2.2 million for a one-form entry up to £3.6 million for a one-form entry with a Nursery.

Dewey is a multi-storey option designed specifically for tight sites and costs between £4.4 million for a two-form entry up to £5.8 million for a three-form entry with a nursery.

The Newton is a single story one-form entry option, which includes an enclosed courtyard and costs £3.3 million, while the Paxton is available as 1.5-form entry and a two-form and can include a nursery. Built using a glulam system, this option starts at £3.9m Paxton. 

The Mondrian is the secondary school model and can cater for 900 pupil or 1,050 pupils and starts from £11.5 million.

Sunesis Leisure will be launched at the Local Government Authority conference in June. This system will feature three modes: a four-lane pool with dry leisure centre, a six-lane pool with dry leisure centre and four-lane pool only.

The initiative has been welcomed by the design council, whose senior advisor Alan Thompson says: “We believe this could be a successful way to build new schools, specifically where both the site and client brief are at the less demanding end of the spectrum.” 

Clients are not encouraged to look for amendments but to stick to what is on offer to ensure cost efficiencies. Willmott Dixon estimates that through more efficient design, the base product is 30% cheaper than traditional options.

Willmott Dixon and SCAPE claim that Sunesis can achieve a cost per pupil of £8,500 to £10,000 against a typical school cost per pupil range of £15,000 to £20,000.

The first project let using Sunesis was Oakfield Primary School in Rugby, which was awarded by Warwickshire County Council and is due for completion on September 17 2012 -26 weeks earlier than a traditional build.

Another five contracts are in pre-construction and expected to start on site later this year. Willmott Dixon also has another 15 enquiries at various stages of engagement or procurement and envisages a pipeline valued at £3100 million.

For supply chains, Willmott Dixon and SCAPE have developed national agreements across major packages and services for Sunesis on top of any local requirements to target local spend. When delivering projects, clients are always keen to ensure as much money is spent locally. 

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