Net Zero Award 2023

Pen Y Dre High School NZC Refurbishment – Morgan Sindall Construction, Merthyr Tydfil CBC, Lawray Architects, Cambria Consulting, WSP, MM Sustainable Consulting, Aecom


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Pen Y Dre High School Net Zero Carbon Heavy Refurbishment came about as a result of the strong position taken by Merthyr Tydfil Council in response to and partner with Welsh Government in the pledge made after COP26. The project originally started out as an extensive refurbishment of a live school, but as they were just concluding the RIBA Stage 3 design in the Preconstruction Phase, Welsh Government took the decision that all Government funded projects from January 2022 would need to be NZC in operation. At this point it was agreed that the project would be changed to an NZC refurbishment project which would mean it would be the first school project within Wales to strive towards NZC refurbishment.

Given the pioneering nature of the project, there has been a completely collaborative approach between Morgan Sindall as the contractor, the Client, design team and key subcontractors throughout the design period and through into construction which has meant that everyone has bought into the decision making process and have been able to collectively share in the occasional disappointments in trying to get the project to work through to the massive highs in achieving a refurbishment project that is going to be completely NZC in operation and also beneath the Welsh Government target for Embodied Carbon. As they had progressed to the end of RIBA 3 design the client could have taken the decision not to target NZC and could also have only wanted to pursue a light touch, but instead decided to put NZC at the heart of design decision making.

At the heart of all of the above decision making was ensuring that they were able to demonstrate that they were on track to achieve NZC in operation as well as better the embodied targets, to ensure that this was focussed upon be ensured that the project was constantly scrutinised by an environmental specialist and also that the TM54 document was kept up to date as changes were made and continues to be updated so that they can be sure that they will deliver at the end was the same if not better than intended at design stage.

Being able to demonstrate that the project is designed and ultimately built to achieve NZC in Operation and Embodied Carbon gives this project a unique perspective now, given the relative infancy of NZC particularly with regards to refurbishments of this size. Whilst a number of new build projects are able to demonstrate NZC operation, very few will be able to show the practicality that Pen Y Dre can and it is through multiple design iterations and modelling with a collaborative partner that has enabled this to be the success it has been to date and continues to be. Given the amount of learning that has been achieved during this project a large amount of it can be easily shared through the industry and given the length of the project can be monitored as they continue with new phases on site.