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Balfour Beatty: The secret behind our academies success

A standardised school model prepared before the James Review was commissioned has helped Balfour Beatty secure seven of the first 17 academy projects unlocked by the coalition government.

The UK’s biggest contractor created a “kit of parts” school building system for its bid for the £1 billion Hertfordshire Building Schools for the Future project.

Although only the sample schools of that scheme went ahead, the lessons learnt have proved valuable in bidding for the latest wave of academies.

Balfour Beatty Construction Scottish and Southern managing director Bob Clark told Construction News: “There was a gap between Hertfordshire’s desire for new schools and the budget it had, so we developed the BBi 600 system and won the contract. We spent £1 million on research and development and erected a mock-up school in Derby.

“When the new government came in, it wanted to make efficiencies, and we were well placed to do that. It gave us a headstart.”

BBi 600 allows Balfour to design bespoke schools using standardised components. It cuts the need for staff on site and its use is being continually refined to reduce time and cost of construction.

CN exclusively revealed details of the early academies winners, with Balfour dominating the early competition for academies work under the new government, with Bam Construct, Kier, Shepherd and Wates taking two schemes a piece.

Apollo and Sir Robert McAlpine have secured a job each, leaving seven contractors with places on the framework but no wins since the last general election.

Willmott Dixon head of Education Peter Owen said the major contractors were directing lots of resources at the academies framework as work was so scarce.

“Regional firms are using traditional juggling of tenders in local offices while the public companies are focusing central bid teams on it as they need the turnover to satisfy the stock market,” he said.

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