Knauf’s artful expertise speeds Merseyside college build

Technical support and acoustic expertise from Knauf has enabled architects BDP and contractor Vinci to deliver a school that provides an exciting mix of learning environments and social spaces despite being built to a tight budget.

Built on a budget of just £1191/m2, St John Bosco Arts College is a new build secondary 1,100 place Catholic girls’ school in Croxteth, Liverpool, delivers 15% more area than the traditional BB98 school, enabling greater flexibility to create both transformational and inspirational spaces.

Acoustically, the challenge was to provide an exciting mix of learning environments and social spaces within a 91m x 55m three storey single span column free environment that is focussed on an open space at the centre of the school. This public atrium space with a green hill at its heart that acts as the hub around which cellular classrooms and breakout spaces are clustered to suit various educational functions but all of which set different requirements in terms of achieving the requirements of BB93.

As a result, BDP project director Mark Braund said: “The building feels like a new breed of school, unique, contemporary and an excellent example of how small budgets don’t necessarily have to deliver standard products.

“The design creates excellent passive supervision between the various activities and allows for pupils to be inspired and ‘learn by seeing others do’ in the varied and rich environment.”

After being introduced to the project by Vinci, Knauf’s technical support team worked with the acoustic consultant, Red Acoustics, and the architect to choose the appropriate wall and ceiling constructions to deliver the desired acoustic performance.

Installation of the partitions and ceilings was undertaken by Cheadle-based Plaster Plus. Plaster Plus has many years of experience on this type of project, and collaborated with the team prior to commencement and during the build to ensure the project appropriate solutions were employed as the project developed.

The aim was to combine value engineering with simplicity, streamlining the design so that the number of wall and ceiling types is kept to a minimum and so reduce the number of components required on site. In this case, for instance, the number of partition types was reduced from 10 to six and so simplified management on site.

“Rationalising and reducing the number of wall types was crucial for us because it not only took out cost but also speeded up installation,” commented John Fowler, project manager for Vinci. “Carrying out QA (Quality Assurance) checks on the original specification of 10 different wall types would have been a nightmare and would have taken extra time. And on such a fast build programme any benefit you can gain is important.”

Mark Braund points out that Knauf’s team not only provided expert advice on the components to use but did so in a manner that was sympathetic to the project’s aims. “Knauf was very proactive and understood that it’s about the overall package so that we deliver a high quality design for the price,” said Braund. “It had the products and systems that enabled us to the use of a single board rather than a double layer to achieve the performance required which was simpler and quicker to install.”

For instance, Soundshield Plus plasterboard enables the teaching areas to meet the strict standards laid down by Building Bulletin 93: Acoustic Design of Schools while Knauf Impact Panel is installed in corridors and circulation areas and workshops. Both products are mounted on frames of 70mm Knauf ‘C’ Studs. The conventional means of achieving this would be to install two 12.5mm boards on either side of a partition whereas the same performance is possible with just one layer of 15mm Soundshield Plus. Similarly, Impact Panel also means one board can be installed rather than two layers or more.

Knauf Performer partitions clad with Knauf Soundshield Plus, and using the Knauf Resilient Bar technology, can achieve up to 65dB (Rw) within an overall width of just 164mm. Knauf Impact Panel not only provides a superb, durable finish that is easily repaired and can be combined with other Knauf products to give a superior acoustic performance of up to 57dB (Rw).

Knauf has developed a range of proven systems that meet the specific design challenges for walls, ceilings and floors set by schools and colleges, which mainly concern the acoustic characteristics, fire performance and durability of materials. Its Project and Specification team is well versed in the design requirements of education projects and can provide hands-on support and advice throughout on larger projects