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Hinchley Wood School - Esher, Surrey

January 1, 2016

Richardson & Peat delivered a £1.4 million centre designed to help autistic children thrive in mainstream school. With limited space in which to work and the project having to be carried out during term-time to ensure its readiness for the new term in September, the building contractors built the centre on top of an existing school building in a mere six months without disruption to daily school life.

Hinchley Wood in Esher is one of four high-achieving Surrey schools selected to open centres specifically for educating secondary-age children with autism. The centres, a joint initiative between the National Autistic Society (NAS) and Surrey County Council, will provide specialist support for 80 pupils with autism. It will allow the children to stay in mainstream Surrey schools and save taxpayers £1.7m annually.

Appointed by the National Autistic Society (NAS) who managed the Hinchley Wood School project on behalf of the Cullum Family Trust, Richardson & Peat have built three of the county’s four autism centres. Their experience and expertise in the sector proved invaluable at Hinchley Wood as the clients required the centre to be constructed on top of an existing single-story, flat-roof school building.

Martin Peat, Commercial Director for Richardson & Peat, commented: “NAS decided we were the right people for the Hinchley Wood project as it’s the third centre we’ve built for them. The build came with all the challenges you’d expect when working in a school environment. Poor access to the site and the tight space in which we had to work added to the challenge. When NAS came to us with the plans they trusted us to make them work. We didn’t let them down.”

Hinchley Wood School’s autism centre includes two science labs and a drama studio. It features single and two-storey sections. Built on top of a school building, a large portion of the new centre overhangs the existing structure. To complete this potentially complex build and with time of the essence to create a building which could support itself off another structure, Richardson & Peat manufactured the new centre’s timber frame shell offsite before transporting it to site for installation. The main structure was extended on either side to house a drama centre and a stairwell to connect the upper and lower parts of the new building. To ensure works caused minimal disruption to the school’s daily operations, Richardson & Peat drew-up a coordinated construction programme in order to limit the use of heavy machinery on site. 

With the centre’s 820m2 structure in place, Richardson & Peat were required to create a suitable interior in which autistic could learn and play in safety. In order to facilitate this, they built a number of curved walls and areas of clear sight, with consideration given to the coordination of the interior’s colour scheme to enable a contented environment. High ceilings and windows were also required along with several break-out spaces.

Martin Peat commented: “Despite the limitations of working in a tight area that was essentially landlocked, we managed to deliver a centre that will make mainstream school life more comfortable for autistic children and provide them with an environment in which they can thrive.”

Richardson & Peat work on a range of projects from major residential schemes to bespoke homes, new build and refurbishment projects spanning education, health, commercial and private construction. The company, which is based in Shefford, Bedfordshire, places an emphasis on energy, efficiency and sustainability through to Passivhaus construction and passive principles.

Their adroit professionalism ensured the Hinchley Wood School project was completed to the client’s strict seven-month deadline. The centre will open for the first time in September as a safe, aesthetically-pleasing, practical place of learning for autistic children for many years to come.

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