Delivering a fresh start for an integrated primary school

The new Roe Valley Integrated Primary School (IPS) proved to be both the project’s greatest challenge and triumph for main contractor Lowry Building & Civil Engineering (LBCE) Ltd.

As its standout feature, the curved design of the new Roe Valley Integrated Primary School (IPS) proved to be both the project’s greatest challenge and triumph for main contractor Lowry Building & Civil Engineering (LBCE) Ltd.

The school was among recipients of a first tranche of funding allocated in 2016 under the Fresh Start Agreement.

Aimed at securing stability in Northern Ireland and getting its finances back on a sustainable footing, the Agreement included funding for integrated schools with the Department of Education allocating £6.3m for Roe Valley IPS.

Established in 2004 in mobile accommodation, the school had added additional temporary accommodation regularly up to 2013.

With the site failing to meet the current needs of the school, rising demand for integrated education in the area or Department of Education requirements, a new-build school was commissioned.

Specifying design to BREEAM Excellent criteria and built-in flexibility to accommodate future adaption or modification, the Department of Education appointed ESC Construction Consultants as project manager and LBCE as main contractor for the project.

Former Education Minister Michelle McIlveen cut the first sod for the project in September 2022, with pupils and staff occupying the completed school in December 2023.

Jemma Catterson, Business Development at LBCE, said, “We have delivered a variety of works in the education sector over the years from refurbishment to new build school projects, and pride ourselves on delivering quality construction works alongside working collaboratively with all project stakeholders.”

The 1,550sqm school includes seven classrooms, two resource areas, a multipurpose hall, library facilities and a pick-up/drop-off loop for more than 200 pupils, teachers and other staff members.

The space encompasses two main blocks, with the classrooms connected by a curved arrangement to the multipurpose hall, which also serves as a community event space.

External works, meanwhile, comprise a 35-space carpark, drop-off layby and separate service road for the school meals accommodation kitchen, as well as hard, covered and grass play areas.

Laying foundations for the build, LBCE used its own excavators with rota tilt hitches to make the job easier and aid speed and efficiency when excavating around piles.

Slabs and walling followed and, when the curved design and low roof pitch of the classroom block roof made standard concrete tiling impracticable, LBCE selected a Tapco composite roof tile as the most practical solution.

Richard Baird, LBCE Project Manager, said, “The tiles can be laid on low pitches and are lightweight and easily cut and installed to a radius.

“The exemplar design of the teaching block was a curved arrangement, and this provided an extra level of difficulty as everything had to be curved from foundations, walls and lintels to the roof truss set out and curved roof itself, not to mention the internal fit out as metal data trunking had to be ordered and fitted furniture required scribing to the curve.”

However: “The curved complex construction provided a canvas for LBCE to build a showcase school with a high quality of workmanship and materials, resulting in a finished school build second to none.”

LBCE was founded in Castlederg, Co Tyrone in 1961, growing steadily since then to become one of the leading medium-sized contractors in Northern Ireland.

Today it operates from modern offices in the centre of Castlederg and Belfast, employing around 100 full time staff across many key trades.

“This enables us to directly deliver complex, multi-discipline projects and, where highly specialist works are required, we have built up trusted relationships with supply chain partners throughout the region,” said Jemma.

“We also operate a large, modern, fully equipped plant fleet which covers all needs and further strengthens our capability to fulfil the most demanding of projects.”

Core services include building, civil engineering, facilities management and demolition across sectors such as water/wastewater, education, healthcare, commercial, leisure and tourism, community, industrial and utilities.

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7 John Street, Castlederg BT81 7AW