Dagenham Park Church of England School

London. 2012

  • Project Details
  • Completion: 2012
  • Cost: £22.6 Million

Exploring methods of making and construction, Dagenham Park Church of England School is a pioneering example of how collaborative working can deliver quality buildings in highly compressed timelines. A brightly accented three-storey box – split-level and organised around a central atrium – divides the school grounds into two similar-sized parcels. Its façades are composed of layers of storey-high load-bearing panels, crisply finished in pre-cast concrete developed as part of Laing O’Rourke’s Design for Manufacture and Assembly solution. Freely-styled black aluminium portals punch through the elevations, providing access to the cluster of large volumes that constitute the school’s interior. Large-scale graphics and bright accent colours complement an otherwise rigorously neutral material palette.

Dagenham Park Church of England School is one of the final BSF projects to be delivered. It replaces a number of outdated buildings with a new performing arts teaching building within a unified campus of the retained Sports Centre and D&T Building. The overall budget for the project was £22.6m which represents genuine value and the creation of a major new asset for the school and local community.

Dagenham Park Church of England School is an eight form of entry mixed secondary school characterised by its commitment to inclusion and its highly successful performing arts specialist schools programme which has a tangible impact on the ethos of the school and has led to a number of nationally recognised achievements. The school’s student body is diverse in terms of ability and ethnicity, with a large proportion having English as an additional language.

Education and Architectural Vision

The Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme for Dagenham Park School includes a change of governance to voluntary controlled, Church of England, status. This will increase parental choice within the borough and create a ‘throughout’ campus with the nearby William Ford Junior School and village infants schools. This transformation will lead to improved transitional arrangements, increased opportunities for collaboration and sharing of specialist facilities.

Crucially the BSF investment will build on Dagenham Park School’s strong reputation in the performing arts, establishing the school as a centre of excellence and a key provider in the Borough’s plans for the 2013 entitlement. The school has a number of partnerships with local and national performing arts bodies.

Although the new building is very simple in form, the project has been a pioneering example of collaborative working between the construction and design team. The building was designed to maximise the use of off-site fabrication through the use of an integrated façade and structural system as well as other key components such as building services modules. This system, for which this project serves as an exemplar, provides a number of significant benefits to the process including an eight month reduction in construction time.

Pioneering Process and Construction

The project was very much a coming together of a number of organisations to deliver the project on time and on budget. The project was led by Laing O’Rourke Construction South who managed both the Building Schools for the Future Bid, as well as the Design and Construction process, with Allford Hall Monaghan Morris leading the Design Team.

Both organisations forged a strong relationship with the School Leadership Team, as well as the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, (LBBD) to ensure that the new building met with the client’s brief. This relationship has been further strengthened through work experience placements offered to students of the school, plus the employment of local contracting firms.

As testament to the strength of collaboration on the project the Local Education Partnership formed between Laing O’Rourke and LBBD, the Thames Partnership for Learning (TPfL) will continue as a method of delivering other much needed projects, such as housing, within the Borough despite the cessation of the BSF programme.

The building was procured as a Private Finance Initiative with Laing O’Rourke also fulfilling an ongoing role as facilities man­ager for the site. This ongoing role meant that life cycle con­siderations were a key criteria in selecting the building systems. The design and procurement programme for the project was very compressed with completion of the new building targeted within 28 months of the start of the bidding process. The first 12months of this programme encompassed the design phase including a full planning application leading to financial close.

Manufacture and Assembly

The use of off-site fabrication involved the use of an integrated façade and structural system as well as other key components such as building services modules. The structural and façade design was carried out with early input and involvement from the manufacturing specialists and used Building Information Modelling to generate and extract geometry for the purpose of manufacture.

The multilayered façade panels each measuring 7.5m x 3.6m form a loadbearing external and arrive on site with the windows already installed. The façade panels form one element with an integrate structural solution that also includes precast concrete columns, walls and soffit panels. The soffit panels act as permanent formwork for the in-situ concrete slab. The building components are fabricated in controlled manufacturing conditions to maximise quality (including air tightness) and minimise waste and working at height. Operating at maximum capacity the Laing O’Rourke Precast Concrete Manufacturing Facility could create all the precast concrete components for Dagenham Park school in 2 - 3 weeks.

The manufactured components were ready for delivery on site as soon as the enabling and ground works were complete with the structure and façade erected within six months of site operations commencing allowing for early starts on the fit out packages. The construction phase of the new building was only 16 months which was made possible through the implementation of Laing O’Rourke’s strategy of ‘Design for Manufacture and Assembly.’ A comparable project of this size, delivered without the use of this strategy, would have taken 22 months construction phase.

Safety was of paramount importance particularly as the building was constructed on a ‘live’ school campus - how to achieve this was a key driver in the early design process when the phasing strategy for the scheme was developed. The building achieved completion over 250,000 working hours with no reportable or lost time incidents.

Simplicity and Identity

The design for the scheme forges a strong identity for the building and school centred around their specialism of performing arts. The new building is arranged around a key idea of having the performance hall at the heart of the building with flexible classrooms arranged around the perimeter. The space formed between these two uses creates two connected atria that provide open learning and social areas as well as natural light and ventilation. The atria also serve to allow passive supervision of the students during the periods between lessons.

The school actively contributed to the design of the internal graphics and artwork that were produced by Studio Myerscough and were closely involved in the selection of feature furniture to create a unique brand for the school. Colour is introduced to the façade to provide the building with a distinct identity with the palette drawn from variations on colours within the school logo. Entrances to the building are clearly articulated as a series of canopies of a similar character to the entrance portal at the entry point of the site.

Internal Organisation

The design of the new building is based on a number of design principles that emerged from discussions with the School leadership team and the local authority. At the heart of the buildings sits the performance hall that seats up to 350 people and features retractable seating to allow the space to be used for a wide range of activities. The hall has direct access out to the courtyard formed between the new building and existing sports centre.

This Piazza serves as the external social heart of the school campus acting as a forecourt to the new building, existing Sports & Leisure Centre as well as the Design and Technology building. The layout of the piazza will be flexible allowing for games, social interaction, external curriculum activities as well as circulation. The piazza is also trafficable to provide access for emergency vehicles across the site.

Within the building two atria serve different functions. Accessed off the secure entrance lobby, the entrance atrium brings natural light into the heart of the building. The open nature of the atrium reveals connections between subject areas based on different levels of the building and provides direct access to the dining and main hall. The rear performing arts atrium is surrounded by the Performing Arts Department and offers the potential to be used for impromptu performances and assemblies. This atrium also acts as a generous entrance space from the rear of the existing sports hall and external link to the William Ford School.


The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham have a progres­sive environmental policy which was embedded into the project brief and included a number of ambitious targets including a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating for the site and new building, and target annual CO2 emissions of 2 Kg CO2/sqm/year.

To achieve these targets a range of technologies and strategies were deployed including a high performance building envelope with solar control, mixed mode ventilation with heat recovery, high thermal mass, efficient services (light and water), rainwater harvesting and attenuation. The completed building achieved an annual CO2 emission of 20.7kg CO2/ m2 /year and an air tightness of 1.44m3/h. m2 AT 50PA

Minimising waste was a key concern in the design and construction process in line with the Waste Resource Action Plan (WRAP). The use of off-site manufacturing minimised the impact on site during construction as well as reducing material waste. The site recorded a total waste of 2.2t/100sq m/7m³/£100k against a benchmark of 2.2t /100 m2 /7m³/£100k



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