The school is located on a semi-rural site, with the river flood plain on one side and suburban housing on the other. The sports fields lead to open countryside, the Brecon Beacons visible in the distance. The buildings have been set back from the road and an all-weather pitch pushed to the front to emphasise the school’s Sports College status. A wide footpath along the side of the pitch leads to the school entrance.
The school is entered through a large ‘portal’ which also provides a covered link between the two main blocks. Large gates can be closed to make the internal courtyard secure. A learning resource centre sits underneath the portal, in the form of a bright blue ovoid.
Inside the portal, the linear courtyard is flanked by the teaching blocks to the north and the ancillary block to the south. The south block is where all the large communal spaces are located, making it easy to manage after-hours community use. At the heart of the south block, alongside the assembly hall and dining area, is a large social area. Flexible walls mean that this space can spill into the dining and main hall, allowing for a range of whole school events.
The building is designed to create efficient, congestion-free circulation. The teaching blocks are linked at first floor level by a bridge which contains an additional staircase. All circulation at ground floor level blocks is external and covered. The courtyard between the blocks is the main social area for the school and contains a sunken amphitheatre. There are a number of other landscape features behind the teaching blocks, including a science garden, allotments, an orchard and a ‘culture garden’.
The design team set themselves a target of reducing energy consumption to a third of that used in comparable 1970s schools, while user comfort was also a prime consideration. To achieve this they used a heavy concrete structure, sedum roofs and high levels of insulation. Mechanical ventilation has been adopted as providing the lowest energy method of achieving a good quality internal environment in all weather conditions.
The contractor provides the facilities management services for the whole of the school. There is a dedicated on-site team with back up from experts where necessary. This is an important feature of the project, since the energy efficiency of the mechanical ventilation system is dependent on careful monitoring and control. Since it is a PFI project it is in the contractor’s interests to run the system as efficiently as possible.