Award winning team appointed to special school project

An application to build a new special free school in the new Enterprise Area being created on the Bath and West Showground has been submitted.

Working on the Mendip Free School with contractor Sir Robert McAlpine, the design team includes Clarkebond and architect DKA. This is the same team that designed and built the Bridgwater Community Hospital which was recognised in the 2014 national ‘Building better Healthcare’ awards.

Clarkebond is providing civil, structural, geotechnical and below ground drainage engineering services for the scheme which presents a number of design challenges.

The client requires the school and external areas to be level but the site slopes by five meters from front to back.  Clarkebond have therefore modelled the site and the underlying limestone rock contours to determine the optimum level for the new school and the volumes of topsoil, subsoil and solid rock to be handled.


The budget is extremely tight as special needs schools require more floor area per pupil than usual and a disproportionate part of the budget is to be dedicated to the internal fit out. A cost effective and quickly buildable solution is therefore needed with maximum flexibility to allow for classroom layout changes in the future.

Clarkebond’s steel framed solution can be quickly sheeted to provide weather protection for following trades. The foundations will be reinforced concrete strips of minimum depth to minimise excavations into rock and control any differential movement. All wet trades will be eliminated both inside and outside the building to save time and avoid the need for specialist labour that is currently difficult to procure.

The Mendip School, will provide 120 places for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder or Speech, Language and Communication Needs. Facilities will include 19 classrooms, sports hall, staffrooms, kitchen, science and technology areas, library, wet rooms and future proofed drainage to allow for the future construction of a swimming pool.

The school forms part of a master plan aimed at improving the Showground facilities to improve its appearance, enable permanent site uses, increase the range of facilities as a tourism destination and rural innovation resource and to deliver on-site renewable energy.