Changing Landscape

A local government-owned company has partnered with Warwickshire County Council to build the UK’s first “Sunesis” school.

Work on the UK’s first “Sunesis” school began in January.

Sunesis is a partnership between Willmott Dixon and Scape, a Nottingham-based local authority-controlled company that works to reduce the cost of public-sector building procurement. Its goal is to provide standard whole-building designs at a set price. The initiative, which was launched last year to meet the Government’s “more for less” agenda, has the potential to reduce the cost of a new primary or secondary school by up to 30%.

The tailored Sunesis concept was approved by Warwickshire County Council to replace the infant/foundation stage of Oakfield Primary School in Rugby, which was built in the 1950s and is now over-capacity.

Keynes, a £2.2 million standardised design, has been purchased, and work on installing it began in the week beginning January 23.

The expedited construction project is expected to be completed in time for the start of the new academic year in September.

Because the design is adaptable, optional extras such as an internal sliding wall, play equipment, furniture, or a canopy can be added as needed.

“Cost certainty in the current climate is critical for local authorities as budgets are being cut and more needs to be delivered for less,” says Scape CEO Mark Robinson. That is where Scape truly adds value, literally. We’re enabling our clients to eliminate a significant amount of waste through Sunesis, allowing projects to be produced and delivered quickly and at a very competitive price.”

According to estimates, the overall programme will save 26 weeks from the scheme’s inception last July to completion later this year when compared to the traditional approach of designing a bespoke school and tendering for a contractor.

Councillor Colin Hayfield, portfolio holder for customers, access, and physical assets at Warwickshire County Council, says the main advantages of using Scape are speed and cost-effectiveness.

“Through Sunesis, we were able to save money on legal fees, feasibility studies, design, and time spent at planning and procurement meetings.”

As a result, we could afford a new addition rather than a small extension.

“There is no comparable product that can deliver a fully designed school to meet the fast-track programme we require,” he says.

“From the beginning of this project, the Scape and Willmott Dixon teams have listened to our needs and ideas, before thoughtfully adapting these into a design that accommodates the specific challenges of our site,” says Heather Fielding, head teacher at Oakfield. We’ve been blown away by their enthusiasm, high level of organisation, planning, and ability to successfully focus on the solution rather than the problem.”

The first Sunesis project to go live is Oakfield Primary School, and several other councils have approached Scape to express their interest in using the model. Sunesis is available to public sector clients through Scape’s National Contractor Framework, for which Willmott Dixon was re-appointed sole contractor in 2010 following a competitive tender process.

The Sunesis product line also includes three other standardised school designs aimed at primary schools (Newton, Paxton, and Dewey). Mondrian is another model that is available for secondary schools. They are available to view online at, along with information on standard prices, optional extras, and green design features aimed at lowering operating costs.

“This is a tremendous moment in the delivery of a new generation of efficient schools that provide an excellent learning environment but at significantly lower cost,” says Peter Owen, managing director for Willmott Dixon in the Midlands and sector leader for education. This is about Willmott Dixon and Scape providing a real solution to councils who want to stretch their already stretched budgets even further.”

Last Updated on December 30, 2021


Author: Indra Gupta

Indra is an in-house writer with a love of Newcastle United and all things sustainable.

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