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  • 5 minutes
  • 17/11/2021

HLM Architects: Sustainability and Resilience – Social Value for Future Generations

Winning entry from HLM Architects for the Sustainability and Resilience Award at the Social Value for Future Generations Awards in Wales 2021.


A new two form entry Primary School was delivered – Ysgol Pen Rhos. By collaborating with the local community, client and the whole design and supply chain, the result is a modern, contemporary learning environment. The design of the new school enables improved, inclusive educational delivery through a thoughtful, flexible design that is adaptable to changes in the
curriculum. This flexibility was built in through the construction of break-out spaces in corridors, a large external terrace with artificial mounds and a central heart space providing larger spaces
for group and social learning. Further breakout spaces allow alternative teaching models to develop through curriculum planning or natural progression. Different zoning options were designed in, responding to school year activities and SEN requirements. The children and local community have benefitted hugely from the new school development.

Head Teacher Joe Cudd said: “The new school will transform the children’s lives in so many ways. Our previous school buildings were Victorian and not fit for 21st Century learning.”

The new school is at the centre of change in this part of Llanelli and the children at Ysgol Pen Rhos are the community of tomorrow. The building itself is fantastic, offering opportunity and experiences to our children that reflect the changing educational landscape in Wales. Children and families are at the heart of what we do. Our children chose the furniture, the teachers modelled their classrooms, the community we serve is ready to embrace and share the magical school we have; ready for the future…ready to learn.

Not only have young learners benefitted, but also the local economy and community; it was essential that the scheme used local suppliers and local SME’s. The build allowed for apprenticeships and trainee opportunities to be created and most able to be retained following completion. The scheme has regenerated the locality both socially and economically.

Social value outcomes

The new school development regenerates the once-derelict industrial site that was highly contaminated and prone to anti-social behaviour. It is now a thriving learning environment that can be shared with the community, improving wellbeing, and inspiring the next generation of learners in one of Wales’s most socially and economically deprived areas. A ‘Flying Start’ nursery has also been provided on the school site, allowing the opportunity for the local children and families to access early learning and healthcare professional services that were previously lacking.

From the outset, the project faced many challenges. The design team were tasked with designing the school with no excavation into the contaminated ground below, due to high risk of disturbing items of archaeological interest and spreading contamination both on- and offsite. To overcome this, the site was capped with 600mm clean imported granular material. Numerous sub-structure and superstructure alternatives were investigated and developed to reduce the deadweight and minimise excavation depths. Detailed discussions with the Environment Agency led to a piled foundation solution to be developed, removing the need for large intrusive excavations, and minimising the risk of spreading contamination. Due to the pre-existing poor site conditions and historic heavy industrial use of the site, drainage engineers employed a system by which surface water is not allowed to percolate down to the water table on a large area of the site.

The ecological diversity of the site has been enhanced through the provision of a new natural habitat including interconnected areas of swales, orchard and native planting, allowing the landscape to become a key learning resource to support the school curriculum. Consideration of the whole life cycle was extremely important, viewing it not just as an operational building, but also taking into account the design, construction, operation and waste treatment. The BREEAM certification process was applied throughout, ensuring that sustainability and environmental benefits were always part of the development. A BREEAM Excellent rating was achieved.

From an abandoned, derelict, highly contaminated former copper works site a new community school has grown, contributing to huge positive social and economic benefits in the locality. The
local landscape has been revitalised, Ysgol Pen Rhos acts as a catalyst for regeneration and has become a real driver for economic benefit and change in the local area.

In this building we are building the community of tomorrow… we can do that… fulfil this vision… this building is the keystone to their dreams… their future. – Joe Cudd, Head Teacher

Submission by Helen Grant, Marketing Exec, HLM Architects

Judging comments by Richard Dooner

The winner of the Sustainability and Resilience award is Ysgol Pen Rhos. HLM Architects for TRJ Limited and Carmarthenshire County Council designed a new two-form entry primary school that replaces both Lakefield Primary School and Copperworks Infant Nursery School in Llanelli. It delivers a new, modern 21st-century learning facility that has regenerated a previously derelict site.

The school transforms and remodels the external landscape of the former heavy industrial site in what was one of Wales’ most socioeconomically deprived areas, with unemployment figures amongst the highest in Wales. Ysgol Pen Rhos acts as a catalyst for regeneration and has become a real driver for economic benefit and change in the local area; providing tangible, additional benefits to the local community and economy during the process.

The judges said that this was walking the walk.  A smashing example of how commissioning, design, build and application can drive additional social value.  That is additional value over and above what we specify and pay for when we build a school.   This resilient and sustainable resource pays off in transforming place and people.  And it does so with style.

We are proud to present this award to Helen Grant for Ysgol Pen Rhos.

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