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BDP’s sports hall conversion wins The Aj Architecture ‘school project of the year’ award

BDP’s sustainable adaptation of a dilapidated school sports hall into a new social teaching and learning centre has won the ‘school project of the year’ at the prestigious Architects Journal Architecture Awards.


BDP’s innovative approach to repurposing the building at Wardle Academy in Rochdale allows the Watergrove Trust to meet an urgent demand for school places and enables students to learn in more self-directed ways than are possible in the existing school.

The judges called the project a stand out winner and remarked: “On a tight budget, this project creates a community space in the heart of the school, and it’s making such a difference,’

Sue Emms, Principal and North Region Chair at BDP, said: “This award win goes to prove that when we focus on careful, not careless design that impacts the whole community, we can build better, more successful places that help people to thrive.”

“Buildings like WaterSHED can help improve the lives of those who use them and when they use truly sustainable innovation and build methods they become true exemplars that inform the future of our whole industry. We are so happy that the work we have done here has been recognised by AJ and we hope we can inspire more schools to embark on similar projects across the country.”


Two new flexible classrooms and a DT studio are oriented around a central informal learning space and café, while a processional staircase and ‘learning steps’ with integrated seating provide overflow dining space and audience seating for presentations and performances.

In direct response to the client brief, BDP’s multidisciplinary team took a holistic, low-carbon approach to the refurbishment, minimising alteration of the existing building fabric and maximising offsite construction, standardising panel sizes to reduce waste and using natural materials wherever possible.

Plywood, sheep’s wool insulation and acoustic wood wool panels have been used to create insulated and airtight ‘sheds’ on either side of the hall that locally improve the building performance to create a thermally efficient and comfortable environment. Existing materials such as the sports flooring have been retained and restored wherever possible and the trust obtained donated furniture from local businesses.

The completed project is a lean, sustainable and imaginative re-use of an existing asset. As the judges enthused: ‘It’s clever, simple and nicely executed. It’s a generous haven.’


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