First new Barnsley learning centre recycles water naturally

With the 2007 flooding around Barnsley and heavy rain such a regular feature of UK weather, effective surface water management has been a key factor at the new £28 million Darton Advanced Learning Centre, one of nine ALCs and one academy being built under Barnsley LEA’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme.

As design engineers on the Laing O’Rourke and John Laing PFI joint venture, Buro Happold’s Leeds office are not only highly experienced in innovating solutions using a range of stormwater systems but have undertaken similar roles in Wakefield and elsewhere in the region. Buro Happold ultimately proposed Tubosider soakaways, for a combination of strong technical reasons.

First, as the new ALC is being built immediately to the north of the existing high school and the existing surface water outfall is to the south, any discharge would require routing through the high school grounds. To eliminate this significant hazard, the scheme required total infiltration to ground of all surface water on the site.

“The aspiration was to mimic the natural hydrological process. With a deep water table and good infiltration rates recorded in the underlying weathered sandstone, total infiltration was a viable design choice. Even with a large volume of surface water to accommodate, Tubosider’s large diameter steel pipe systems provided the ideal solution, as end of pipe soakaways,” says Buro Happold’s infrastructure engineer Victoria Chleboun.

“The main concern with large soakaway structures is base siltation, particularly over a 60 year design specification. The fact that all Tubosider systems are ready fitted with access points for quick and easy maintenance and that man entry is possible allows for a routine inspection regime and provides the designer with piece of mind.”

The soakaways being used here and elsewhere under the BSF programme also allow rainwater harvesting, thus meeting the ALC demand for reduced water consumption. Following extremely successful site testing, the finished soakaways have since performed perfectly, despite this year’s snow, whereas some modular systems have not.

Work began in July 2009 for completion in 2011, when the existing school will be demolished and the area landscaped. The new Darton school will open in February 2011 to become a 1350 pupil secondary community, with a design concept revolving around four learning pavilions attached to a central triple height atrium containing the community resource and performance spaces.

The school will feature state-of-the-art physical and virtual facilities for secondary and special pupils, adult learners, teachers, support staff and others involved in the teaching and learning environment, mainly serving primary schools in the communities of Darton, Kexborough and Staincross.