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Press Release

Interserve: Revolutionary school design slashes building costs and time

by Interserve Press Office | Nov 02, 2011

Interserve innovation reduces the cost and time of school construction by 25 per cent in response to Michael Gove's education challenge.

With the UK’s public finances increasingly squeezed and spending across most government departments pared back, Interserve, the international support services and construction group, has started work on a unique, flexible, low-cost approach to school construction: PodSolve.

PodSolve is being hailed as an innovative solution that ensures Britain’s children continue to benefit from improvements in the school learning environment. Crucially, though, it is a built environment that offers local authorities and Academies a cost-effective option regardless of the funding pressures they are under.

As part of the drive to reduce the deficit last year the government cut £1 billion from the schools budget and cancelled the £55 billion Building Schools for the Future programme.

Since then the government has launched a smaller, £2 billion Priority School Building Programme to help redevelop the most run-down of school buildings. However, given the precarious state of the public finances the real emphasis has been on finding innovative ways to bring down the costs of building and maintaining schools. The Government has turned to its private sector partners for solutions.

Interserve believes PodSolve is the answer to providing more for less, with the initial project being constructed on behalf of the E-ACT-operated Leeds East Academy.

PodSolve comprises a series of steel-framed rooms or classrooms that can be easily fitted together to create a modern, fully-flexible school environment. It has been developed in a partnership between Interserve, Maber architects, Norwood and Arup.

  • The original estimate for Leeds East Academy in June 2010 was £19 million. Following the programme revisions the budget was reduced to £14 million; the PodSolve solution beats even this lower figure – it will cost just £13.65 million.
  • The pods are manufactured from a composite material within a rigid steel frame. These materials and toughened glass greatly reduce noise and allow for enhanced ‘passive supervision’, ensuring the built environment is as conducive to learning as possible.
  • The flexible building style allows for sections of the school to be separated from others, opening up the possibility of allowing the local community also to benefit from the facilities.
  • The pods can fit in with more traditional construction - as is the case in the Leeds East Academy where the assembly hall, science laboratories and a gym form the north side of the building.
  • The PodSolve school is environmentally friendly, with photovoltaic panels, a well-sealed, well-insulated building, a combined heat and power plant and lighting control systems.

The shape and layout of the school removes the traditional school corridor and regimented classroom approach. This is replaced with the creation of ‘Pods’ which can be moved, added or removed in just five days per pod to cater for changing school requirements.

The building is a state-of-the-art design and will be delivered in just 60 weeks – compared to traditional methods, which typically take up to 80 weeks to construct. The improved building and construction time should help schools make an additional inflationary cost saving.

Adrian Ringrose, Chief Executive of Interserve, said:
“PodSolve is an example of an innovative and intelligent building solution which provides local authorities, schools and the government with a great school environment at a better price. The efficiency and flexibility of the structure is just what our partners are looking for given the current economic climate, and we are delighted that we can cater for this need.”

Helen Lane, Principal of Leeds East Academy said:
“The flexibility of the school will be hugely beneficial. We can close off the rest of the school whilst opening the Sports Hall, Activity Studio, Drama Studio and the Main Hall to benefit the local community. Furthermore this approach leads to a much enhanced feeling of security for the pupils and, in turn, reassures parents that they are sending their children to a school that will be safe. It’s an amazingly innovative design and the perfect solution for us.”

– Ends –

For further information please contact:

Giles Scott 
Head of Corporate Communications
0118 960 2307

Elizabeth Morley / Sam Turvey / Tom Eckersley 
020 7379 5151

About Interserve

Interserve's vision is to be the Trusted Partner of all our stakeholders. We are one of the world’s foremost support services and construction companies, operating in the public and private sectors in the UK and internationally. We offer advice, design, construction, equipment and facilities management services for society's infrastructure. Interserve is based in the UK, has revenue of £1.9 billion and a workforce of nearly 50,000 people worldwide.

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