Schoolchildren in Cheshire are enjoying a renewed sense of health and wellbeing, following a groundbreaking project at Alsager School. The £320k development has provided students with space to enjoy the fresh air — whatever the weather.
Tasked with overseeing the design, build and installation of a sleek new ETFE canopy to enclose what was previously an open courtyard, Access North Build has made waves within the education sector with its industry-first solution.
Yorkshire-headquartered Access North Build designed, developed and installed a pioneering solution, a lightweight steel space frame — the first of its kind supporting an ETFE membrane in the UK — erected to span the quad, thus enclosing the area beneath.
Alsager School Site Manager, Matt Harris, explained: “Fresh air plays a pivotal part in the wellbeing and health of people of all ages. Creating a space which allows students to ‘go outside’ while providing protection from the elements — including rain and solar shielding — is key to supporting their development.”
Engineered to carry more weight over a greater area — in order to provide plenty of natural light and promote student wellbeing — the greatest challenge was the location and layout of the outdoor space, which was enclosed by existing buildings on all sides.
As a result, the superstructure — which is over 400 square feet in size — had to be assembled in the school car park before being carefully manoeuvred over the establishment and precisely into position on the pre-installed locating bolts.
Access North Group Managing Director, Berenice Northcott added: “This type of ETFE enclosure provides an extremely beneficial space for organisations within the education sector where student wellbeing is crucial. Additionally, the new ETFE canopy has a design life of 70 years providing it is regularly maintained, but if the time comes when it is no longer required, the ETFE membrane and steel space frame are recyclable, extending the environmental-friendliness of the build with the circular economy in mind.
“We relished the challenges of this particular project. Craning a huge space frame over a school and courtyard — which was bordered on all sides — without damaging buildings or people, was a testament to the planning, organisation and attention to detail of the team. The new roof has transformed a previously under-utilised area into a light and airy multifunctional space, resulting in a positive impact on staff and pupils.”