CIF Bids: helping to transform the learning environment

A well designed, comfortable, safe and healthy environment is critical when creating an effective learning space for young students.

With many older school buildings now deteriorating and suffering from a range of condition issues such as leaking roofs, spalling concrete, unsafe glazing, and uninsulated cavity walls, this ideal environment has become more difficult to achieve. Aside from the visible damage to a school’s buildings, the unseen dangers are of equal concern – an inadequate ventilation strategy results in poor indoor air quality and high levels of CO2 which can cause fatigue amongst the students, while the health implications are considerable.

With public budgets tightened and traditional sources of funding now less available, academies and colleges are becoming more reliant on the government’s Condition Improvement Fund (CIF) to support vital refurbishment work and tackle overcrowding by expanding. Competition is fierce – the fund was 4x oversubscribed in the 2017-2018 bidding round with only 1,510 out of 3,800 applications meeting CIF’s stringent criteria.

Projects are scored against three assessment criteria; need (70%), planning (15%) and value for money (15%). Priority is given to projects focused on compliance issues, health and safety failings, and the condition of the building’s fabric, so a bid application must demonstrate the severity of the concerns and the urgency of the need for funding – this can be challenging.

When the team at The Canterbury Academy in Kent were preparing their CIF proposal for a full facade replacement on the main classroom block, the school’s Business Manager and their chosen Consultant approached specialist glazing and cladding contractor Prima Systems to carry out a ‘Facade Condition Report’ to be included in the bid. A detailed cost and deliverability plan for the recommended works and supporting technical drawings were also requested.

Prima Systems has an excellent track record of contributing to successful funding applications for schools in London and the Home Counties. Their facade condition report examines all aspects of a building’s facade, recording all damage, defects and associated compliance failings – all backed up with photographic evidence. Technical data including indoor air quality readings obtained using remote monitoring software and heat loss coefficient calculations help to illustrate the improvements a new facade could offer.

In order to produce the report, a detailed survey of the ‘Crittall’ style steel facade was conducted. It highlighted many concerning issues with the windows, the locks and restrictors, the frames, the lack of ventilation, and the poor state of the facade, that had an adverse effect on the indoor air quality and thermal control.

The bid was announced as successful in April – and the full facade replacement project was underway soon after, transformed with a thermally efficient facade consisting of Rehau 70 PVCu framing, solar control glass, and steel insulated panels. It is expected to extend the lifespan of the building by up to 30 years, and the school will also benefit from reduced maintenance costs and utility bills.

Confirmation of your funding takes you to the next stage of your school improvement project – the construction site stage. Coordinating the school’s activities around a live construction environment can be taxing – preparation and flexibility are key. Summer holidays provide a window of opportunity, but depending on the scope of the project the installation is likely to run into term time – as it did when Prima Systems were undertaking a full facade refurbishment at Norton Knatchbull School in Ashford in 2017.

Noise assessments were performed to determine the effects of work on each elevation – it was determined that the fixing of the cladding brackets was too loud to be carried out during school hours so a weekend schedule was implemented. Attaching the cladding boards was less disruptive so the team would return to that area during the week. Exams were taking place at key points of the installation so teams would switch between the different phases around the site to allow work to continue.

Norton Knatchbull School was awarded the funding based on the poor state of repair of the building’s structure and environmental performance failings. To combat the issues, a high performing, energy efficient combination of cladding and glazing systems were specified to improve the thermal efficiency, ventilation, and temperature control in the building, and visually transform the dilapidated facade of the school.

Owing to the scale and complexity of this project, Prima Systems provided a fully integrated approach with a full design package of detailed drawings and specifications, allowing the interfacing details between the glazing and cladding elements to be resolved before being on site.

Sapa Dualframe aluminium casement windows were selected for their high thermal efficiency, energy performance, and low maintenance requirements, with high level windows fitted with teleflex remote gearing and vents. Jack TD68 thermally broken commercial doors were used throughout with robust, heavy duty hardware to suit the environment, including fire escape hardware and remote automatic door gearing to the main entrance doors. The glass requirements were calculated and specified to provide the best possible U-value whilst also achieving the correct LT and G values that best suited each elevation.

Roof replacement works were also included in the bid so this, coupled with the cladding system specified by Prima Systems, provided a watertight and thermally efficient building envelope.

The Condition Improvement Fund can help to dramatically transform your school if it has fallen into disrepair due to both financial and operational constraints. But securing the funding is just the start of the challenges – you need a team of invested subcontractors involved from the start who will advise and guide you through the process ensuring you achieve the best outcome for your school.

For more information please visit www.primasystems.co.uk.

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