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SCOIL AROUND THE CORNER

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Scoil Naomh Pádraig National School, Kanturk – Vision Contracting

Scoil Naomh Pádraig National School, constructed by Vision Contracting in 17 months during the Covid-19 pandemic in Kanturk, Co Cork, is a much-needed state-of-the-art education facility that the local community has been fighting to get for many years.

In August 2020, Vision Contracting was contracted under a ‘Public Works Contract for Building Works Designed by the Employer’ by the Office of Public Works (OPW) to build Scoil Naomh Pádraig National School, Kanturk, a 16-classroom school with three special education teacher rooms on a 2.4-hectare greenfield site at Mill Road, Kanturk, Co Cork.

The school was developed to facilitate the amalgamation of two local national schools; St Colman’s Boys National School and the Convent of Mercy National School. 

Scoil Naomh Pádraig’s large general-purpose hall

The brief

The brief for the two-storey primary school, designed by OPW Architectural Services, called for a school building with a total internal floor area of 3,253 sq metres, containing 16 classrooms, general-purpose hall, library, support accommodation, a three-room special needs (ASD) unit and all ancillary and services works. 

External ancillary works included 37 on-site car parking spaces, three disabled parking spaces, vehicular access roads, a set-down area, pedestrian access pathways, ball courts, play areas, bin store, bicycle shelters, and gas storage tanks, as well as a new connection to existing foul drainage system, surface water drainage system with stormwater attenuation connected to the existing surface water network at the entrance to Market Place in the town. The contract also included the provision of signage and landscaping as part of the overall site development works on the circa-2.4-hectare campus.

Light-filled corridors can be found throughout the new school

Project team

Vision Contracting started work on site on 30 August 2020. The contractor appointed a widely experienced in-house project management team to ensure that the work would progress smoothly and disruption as a result of Covid-19 restrictions would be minimised.

Vision Contracting Project Director Aidan Drummond explains, “We assigned the team for the project at a very early stage so we could commence immediately as soon as the tender letter of acceptance was issued and signed. We were keen to get started on site as early as possible to get bulk earthworks, and site preparation progressed as rapidly as possible in case of an early onset of harsh or wet winter weather. As it turned out, we had a difficult winter, but the rapid start helped to offset some of the worst of the weather-related impacts. We also had an established Covid-19 Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in place before we opened the site, which all our teams were well drilled on.”

He continues: “Our core team included a highly experienced internal team of project manager, site engineers and a civils team, who all, fortunately, became available due to the timely completion of another similar size project.”

Site preparation

The initial challenge was to clear the 2.4-hectare greenfield site. 

“As it was an extremely overgrown greenfield site, we procured a local contractor with suitable equipment to remove the excess vegetation and trees,” Aidan Drummond continues. “While Vision Contracting has a long-standing relationship with many of our subcontractors, we also try to subcontract locally where possible. We find that this approach helps to create community goodwill and brings the advantages associated with having detailed local knowledge and familiarity with nearby facilities and resources, which invariably results in added value. The local contractor we procured had a suitably licenced waste facility, and they undertook the bulk of the earthworks, stripping and stockpiling the topsoil on site for re-use later on. This approach helped us minimise the environmental impact of the project on the local community and was one of a number of sustainability measures we were able to implement.”

As it was a greenfield site, there were no services available when Vison Contracting took possession. 

“We bored a temporary water well for freshwater, which we decommissioned prior to the completion of the project, and we installed a temporary waste holding tank for the duration of the project for the site toilets and canteens,” Drummond adds. “This was serviced on a regular basis by a waste-licenced contractor. The tank was then decommissioned and removed from the site on completion of the project.”

A 60 KVA diesel generator supplied the site electricity for the first four months until ESB Networks supplied a temporary connection from its network.

Construction works

As the Letter of Acceptance was issued on 18 August 2020, Vision Contracting planned to get as much of the substructure and groundworks completed as soon as possible before the onset of the wet and dark winter months. 

“It was a sloping site with a steep gradient which required extensive earthwork cutting and filling,” Aidan Drummond notes. “These activities slowed and impacted the foundations’ progress. The design included stepped floors to deal with the sloping site topography, and consequently, the ground floor substructure required extensive reinforced concrete retaining walls and precast floor slabs to bring the building out of the ground.”

The timing of the commencement date was not ideal, as this meant that Vision Contracting had no choice but to follow on with fair-faced blockwork in November 2020. 

“The timing made the masonry works extremely difficult due to the wet weather in November and December 2020,” he adds. “All masonry works needed to be protected and covered at all times until the mortar cured. The winter of 2020/2021 was extremely wet and resulted in some soaked masonry concrete blocks despite our best temporary works measures. This resulted in efflorescence, which is the surface growth of water-soluble salt crystals as water dried out from the face of the walls. But the team got stuck in, and although it took much grinding and cleaning effort, it was removed satisfactorily once the building was weathered and dry.”

Covid-19 impacts

The continuing impact of Covid-19 was another challenge that needed to be taken into consideration. As the project started in September, the Vision Contracting team and supply chain were well-versed in the company’s Covid-19 SOP.

“We followed the industry Covid-19 SOP on the site with social distancing throughout the project. But Covid-19 also dramatically impacted our supply chain and materials availability. Materials shortages and delivery backlogs caused critical delays, and increased costs were being notified almost on a weekly basis. We adapted and worked as best as we could to minimise the impact of the pandemic on the project. This was greatly helped by the collaborative approach taken by the entire project team.”

Scoil Naomh Pádraig National School main entrance

Completed works

The completed Scoil Naomh Pádraig comprises a traditional concrete RC frame with masonry infill. The brief had specified an airtightness of < 3m3/hr/m2, and the Vision Contracting team achieved an improved airtightness of 2.73 m3/hr/m2.

For glazing elements, the specialist subcontractor installed an AMS XT66 window system with unique patented architectural design features combined and market-leading thermal performance with a u-value of 1.37W/(m²K).

The structure was topped off with an EQC standing seam roof system with 320mm insulation.

The building is fitted with JA Solar – JAM60S10-320-340 PV panels with a rated output of 25.16 kWpH. All extraction fans in the school run on timers, and all lighting is provided by dimmable LEDs controlled by PIRs.

The works programme started on 31 August 2020, with the project completed on 28 February 2022, only running two months behind schedule despite the significant Covid delay impacts and the particularly adverse winter weather. 

Local reaction

At the official opening of the Scoil Naomh Pádraig in September 2022, school principal Eilís Finnegan told local newspaper, The Corkman, “It is fabulous to be in a building that is bright and spacious with beautiful rooms and furniture. We’re coming from the legacy of an old-fashioned building, where we depended on Scoil Mhuire for a hall. Now we have a fine large hall here.”

Vision Contracting Project Director Aidan Drummond

In conclusion

Speaking about how the overall project went and how it sits in Vision Contracting’s portfolio, Aidan Drummond comments, “Scoil Naomh Pádraig was a great project for Vision Contracting and our team of subcontractors. We enjoyed an excellent collaborative relationship with the design team, the wider project team and all of the stakeholders. This proved invaluable when dealing with multiple external adverse factors, such as Covid 19, Brexit and materials supply challenges, that impacted the project’s progress. Despite all of these challenges, we were only a few weeks over schedule with the work, and the local community in Kanturk now has a state-of-the-art, well-finished modern education facility to meet its education needs in the years ahead.”

Project Team

Client: Office of Public Works (OPW)

Architect: OPW Architectural Services

Main Contractor: Vision Contracting Ltd 

C&S Engineer: PHM Consulting Engineers 

M&E Engineer: Malachy Walsh & Partners 

Quantity Surveyor: Tom McNamara Chartered 

Quantity Surveyors & Project Managers 

PSDP: Dara Mulhern/OPW Architectural Services

Assigned Certifier: Terri Sweeney Meade/OPW Architectural Services

Archaeologist: Dermot Nelis Archaeology 

Traffic Management Consultant: DBFL

Ecologist Consultant: Natura Consultants

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