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Last Updated: Monday, 2 August, 2004, 13:22 GMT 14:22 UK
Community project is a class act
by Jemima Laing
BBC News Online, Cornwall

Lanlivery Community Primary School
The new classroom took 16 weeks to build
For parents watching their children enjoy their new classroom at a tiny Cornish primary school there is an added sense of satisfaction.

The new classroom at Lanlivery Community Primary school was built with real input from parents and governors.

As well as being as green a building as possible, it serves as an example of what can be done when a community pulls together.

And their efforts have now been rewarded with top-level recognition, winning a building "Oscar".

Our advice would, above all, be bold and don't compromise
Martin Penk
The original school at Lanlivery was built in 1877 and proved perfectly adequate especially when pupil numbers fell to as low as 30 in 1999.

But other factors including the school's improved performance and the establishment of a pre-school began to boost numbers and by the summer of 2001 it became clear action was needed.

Governors and teachers explored various options including temporary buildings, conventional buildings and lightweight timber structures.

But the chair of governors, Martin Penk, had first-hand experience of designing and building small sustainable buildings in his spare time and decided the time was right to employ his skills and experience a little closer to home.

He wanted to create a simple open plan space which could be used for a variety of activities and would also stand out in terms of its green credentials.

See how Lanlivery Community Primary School's new classroom took shape

He said: "The old adage that necessity is the mother of invention almost completely sums up this whole project."

The first step was to find a student architect who would be prepared to work for a nominal fee and Nathan Davis fitted the bill.

He visited the school and went away with a brief to design the new classroom.

His ambitious design proved to be over budget so working with Mr Penk they honed their ideas to fit both budgetary requirements and their environmentally-friendly aspirations.

Governors approved plans for the lightweight sustainable timber frame structure in Autumn 2001 and Mr Penk began the process of obtaining estimates, planning and preparing drawings.

The structure consists almost entirely of sustainable materials such as sustainable sourced softwood and locally sourced Douglas Fir.

Recycled newspaper was used throughout for insulation and internally the walls were finished with lime-based paints which contain no toxins or solvents.

Along the way the help and support of the local engineer, Tony Mogford, grandfather of one of the pupils, was enlisted to submit the planning application.

Local contractors were employed and work began in February 2004.

The main contractor was local builder Shaun Bunney, who has a son at the school.

Kevin McLeod, Richard Mudge head teacher, Fourth from left Martin Penk, fifth from left Nathan Davis
The team received an award from the RICS

He completed some of the joinery for free and electrician David Wright, whose daughter is a pupil, provided materials at cost.

Local architects Christopher Smith Associates charged a nominal fee for providing the indemnity cover and contract management consultation and Martin and Nathan Davis managed the project themselves for free.

And parents gave their time to paint the building inside and out, they helped unload timbers - some of which took 15 people to move.

They laid carpet tiles, quarry tiles and cork flooring as well as helping to move a tonne of shingle for the roof perimeter.

And a local farmer removed the excavated material from the site with his trailer.

Sixteen weeks later, at 0100 BST on 2 June, work on the 75,000 building was complete with the children moving in seven hours later.

The project has also served as a teaching tool throughout its construction, introducing the issue of sustainability to the children.

Mr Penk said: "The structure is evident in the final building, the children can appreciate how the building stands up.

"The posts and beams are exposed and they can see and feel the materials."

'Sterling efforts'

And Mr Penk is keen to pass on what he has learned from the project to other schools.

"We are already working with four more schools preparing designs for new buildings as far afield as Somerset.

"Our advice to schools is look at the wider picture, use the building process as a learning tool and above all be bold and don't compromise."

On the back of the project's success Mr Penk, Nathan Davis and a colleague Ian Armstrong have set up their own architectural practice and are thrilled by the recognition their work has received.

In awarding the school a Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) award one judge said the project "was carried out with common sense and a true concern for both the environment and best value."

Mr Penk said: "I think it's fair to say that the award was achieved not by the application of high-tech complexity but because of considered application of simple but effective sustainable principles.

"We are so grateful to the whole community for their sterling efforts in bringing this project to completion."


SEE ALSO:
Green business park wins award
30 May 04 |  Cornwall
Dairy is the cream
05 Nov 03 |  Cornwall
Pods win design prizes
12 Jun 03 |  Devon


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