The use of the revolutionary Kingspan TEK Building System to create three purpose designed pre-school children’s nurseries in Slough proved to be quite an education for the construction industry.

However, this was the System’s first permanent non-residential project in the UK – and provided a valuable lesson about how the flexibility of the structural insulated panel (SIP) based building method can make it the ideal solution for projects outside of the housing market.

Appropriately, this learning curve was provided by three Sure Start Children’s Centres built by Slough Borough Council to cater for a total of 277 pre-school children aged 0-4 in the town’s most disadvantaged areas.

As well as full day care facilities for under 3s, the Centres – Montem, William Penn and Claycots – offer health and family support services, access to Jobcentre Plus, adult education and careers guidance for parents, a crèche and a “wrap around” childcare service for working parents whose children attend primary schools next to the Sure Start Centres.

Faced with the challenges of a tight schedule and restricted budget, the architects, The AED Practice, researched buildings systems capable of delivering the project speedily, economically and with a high quality environment.

The options of modular units and a traditional construction were rejected in favour of the Kingspan TEK Building System which met all the requirements and in addition proved to be the most effective way of creating space tailored specifically for the activities and facilities provided by the centres.

It took just four weeks to erect the Kingspan TEK Building System weathertight superstructure of each of the Sure Start Centres, resulting in a total build period complete with external play areas, access roads and car parking of only 26 weeks.

The Montem and William Penn Centres are single storey structures and Claycots is on two levels. The walls are clad in a mix of Thermawood timber shiplap cladding and render, whilst at Claycots the main elevation was brick clad to match the exterior of the newly-built primary school on the same site.

Claycots demonstrated the versatility of the system when it was discovered the roof void areas could be converted into additional space to meet the requirements of children with additional needs and family groups. It needed an extension of only six weeks to the original contract time to incorporate 70 square metres of additional space within the original envelope.

Derek Hampshire, of The AED Practice, who was responsible for the projects, said:” We were tremendously impressed with the speed of construction, thermal performance, environmental comfort and design flexibility needed to accommodate so many functions and facilities.

“The quality of the care and learning environment for the children and the working environment for the staff is well in excess of that provided through system build, and the TEK method delivered the project at less cost than traditional construction.”