Pen Y Dre High School NZC Refurbishment

Constructing Excellence

In September 2021, Morgan Sindall were appointed to refurbish Pen y Dre High School, a 11,250m2, 1970’s comprehensive school for pupils aged 11-16, located on the Gurnos estate, Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales.

Following pledges made after COP26, Welsh Government took the decision in January 2022 that all future Government funded projects would need to be NZC in operation, with a target of achieving stringent upfront embodied carbon targets by 2030. As the project had progressed to the end of RIBA 3 design the client could have taken the decision not to target NZC in operation. However, strong leadership from Merthyr Tydfil Council took the brave and proactive decision to place NZC in Operation at the heart of design decision making, ultimately resulting in Pen y Dre High School becoming the first NZC in Operation refurbished school in Wales.

The team embraced a truly collaborative approach to design, ensuring that decision-making was taken with input at all levels, including the client, consultant team, main contractor, and key subcontractors, including the wider community and adjacent Prince Charles Hospital. This collaborative and transparent approach to design also ensured that lessons learned could quickly be shared and solutions identified.

The team deliberately took a Whole Life Carbon approach to design. This approach also ensured that we took into consideration future national grid decarbonisation scenarios, which in turn led to the development of a fully electric building services strategy, in addition to significantly enhanced building fabric upgrades and ventilation design.

Three Winning Facts:
  1. Demand Management: Early understanding of predicted energy performance of Pen Y Dre enabled the team to identify and put in place effective demand management measures early in the design process, namely direct private wire connection to Prince Charles Hospital, which can utilise 100% of peak summertime renewable energy generation.
  2. Reuse of Existing Structure: Upfront Embodied Carbon Impact (A1-A5) of the project was calculated as 272 kg CO2e/m2, including the required PV array for offsetting electrical consumption. This is significantly below Welsh Government’s 2030 target of 350kg CO2e/m2, which emphasised the importance of refurbishing existing buildings and retaining existing structure.
  3. Truly Collaborative: Throughout the project, from change to NZC through to construction on site, the project has been totally collaborative through both the low times of multiple options to try and arrive at the best solution that might not have worked through to the success of being able to demonstrate the design and begin construction.