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S & P COIL PRODUCTS LTD - Pulling together for Building Schools for the Future..

In meeting the needs of the Building Schools for the Future programme, designers, contractors and manufacturers need to work together to provide flexible H&V solutions, says Warwick Taylor of S & P Coil Products Limited

Without a doubt, the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme is one of the most exciting and significant government roll-out programmes for many years. And that significance manifests itself in many ways.

Not least of these is the potential for BSF to ensure that our educational buildings facilitate higher standards of education; an objective that has already been validated by results from schools built during the early years of the programme. Just as importantly, it will clearly form a cornerstone of the government’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions, with a target of carbon neutrality for schools by 2016 driving ever-tighter energy targets.

Furthermore, BSF is incredibly important to the H&V industry. With the decline in demand from the commercial sector, public spending could well be the key to the industry’s survival over the next few years.

For all of these reasons, I would argue that the H&V industry has a responsibility to provide the very best possible service to BSF projects - by designing heating and ventilating systems, using the most appropriate products, to deliver the best performance without compromising on comfort levels.

Here, one of the most important factors will be flexibility. While there is a standard performance specification for BSF schools the reality is that each school will be different, so compliance will be achieved in different ways. To that end, manufacturers such as ourselves need to respond to this need by offering flexible solutions that can be tailored to specific requirements. Our own experience in this sector shows that bespoke solutions will often provide the optimum performance with minimum energy consumption.

Unfortunately, the current uncertainty over the scheduling of BSF projects poses a danger that some projects will lack the time to implement tailored solutions and may end up compromising with off-the-shelf products.

The majority of school projects need to complete at a certain time to coincide with term dates. Managing a migration of pupils and staff from an old to a new building in the middle of a term would be extremely disruptive so there is considerable pressure to have new schools ready for the beginning of a term or half-term.

In parallel, though, we have already seen some delays in the start date for some projects, so that they begin late but are still expected to finish on time. This compression of the project schedule has the potential to impact on the fit out phase of the project and, quite possibly, lead to compromise on the performance of the finished building.

To give just one example, we were specified to supply radiant panels to a BSF school before Christmas but, because of uncertainty, the order wasn’t placed until February. The delivery date of March remained the same and, of course, we pulled out all the stops to fulfil the order on time.

However, not all manufacturers have that level of inherent flexibility so such a situation does have the potential to disrupt activities at site level. Even if the manufacturer delivers on time, the structural elements of the project that need to precede the installation of services may be out of synch with those deliveries. This poses a risk of valuable equipment being stored on site for long periods, increasing the likelihood of damage before installation, resulting in further delays to the schedule.

This is an area where contractors and manufacturers can work together more effectively. The reality is that, irrespective of when the order is placed, the invoice will not be issued until after delivery, so there is no financial risk to the contractor. On the contrary, by providing manufacturers with the maximum possible lead times they will receive a higher level of service that supports their on-site activities and maximises the building’s performance.

In this respect, the government can also do a lot more to ensure that BSF projects run smoothly, simply by acting to remove any uncertainty. And the signs are quite encouraging. The current government has already confirmed its commitment to maintain the BSF programme and the recent announcement of additional financial support for PFI projects reinforces this. In addition, the Conservative party has also confirmed that it will continue with the programme should it win the next election. And, while there may be a tendency towards cynicism about politicians’ promises, I would suggest that BSF is so important to the economy as a whole, and the politically sensitive area of education in particular, that it would be political suicide to renege on these promises.

In our view, therefore, BSF – and the Primary Capital programme for primary schools – are initiatives that our industry can both support and be supported by. And to do that to full effect we need to ensure we are all pulling in the same direction.

Email: neil.hudson@spcoils.co.uk


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Hill Farm, Linton Hill, Maidstone, Kent ME 17 4AL
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