Case study

Supply chain innovation yields lower-cost, high-quality schools

Construction firms come together with Innovate UK support to find a more efficient way of building new primary schools with less impact on the environment.

Children playing with hula hoops in front of school watched by teachers against a blue sky.
Sunesis has won innovation awards for its primary school building programme.

An award-winning partnership between business and the public sector has provided around 18,000 new school places since 2013 using the latest building information modelling (BIM) technology in a £180 million construction programme.

Customers select options such as size, type of school and number of pupils, and receive a fixed-price programme and specification.

Sunesis, a joint venture between construction and property services company Willmott Dixon and Scape Group, was set up in 2010 to deliver high-quality, cost-effective designs for schools.

Sunesis developed the concept with support from Innovate UK, collaborating with Oxford Brookes University on a ‘Rethinking the Build Process’ R&D competition. It asked construction companies to take a fresh look at the supply chain and build process to improve the delivery of low-impact buildings.

Benefits beyond the build

The project focused on the national shortage of primary school places and the need for schools to be built more efficiently and in the most environmentally friendly way.

The team discovered that introducing BIM principles into the construction process not only saved time and money, but helped with client communication.

Their approach encouraged collaborative work-flows, and considered innovations such as digital strategies, which were developed, tested and validated on two ‘live’ school projects.

That enabled members of the supply chain to immediately evaluate the impact of their decisions on the wider project.

Tim Carey, director of Sunesis, said:

The key advantages of BIM are clash detection, 4D planning, and importantly the ability to integrate BIM with virtual reality to help engage with non-technical customers and partners in a way a set of 2D drawings never could do.

Having common access to data had many benefits, including being able to extract quantity information to inform subsequent market testing and pricing of each project. That was essential because Sunesis offers each model on a fixed sum price from the outset.

Energy efficiency comparison

They can also offer complete property asset information to the customer to help them manage their property more efficiently after handover. This data can also be used to monitor and compare energy efficiency between schools and identify those that need help to optimise their energy consumption.

Mark McSweeney, Property Services Manager at North Somerset Council, said:

Sunesis has allowed the council to continue to deliver in a time of austerity, and is a true example of ‘real’ efficiency without compromising on quality.

Sunesis won the product innovation category in the Offsite Construction Awards 2016, and was a finalist in the innovation category of the Constructing Excellence Awards 2017.

Since 2013, all Sunesis models have been developed to Level2 BIM. They are committed to using BIM strategies and are working on closer integration with supply chain members as part of a move towards BIM Level 3.

Published 28 September 2017