Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Unit | Yeovil, Somerset


The new ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) Unit is hosted by Preston Academy, a mainstream secondary school in Yeovil, Somerset. The building was completed in 2014 as a result of Somerset County Council actively engaging in the development of specialist ASD bases across the county.

The project was procured through competitive tender where several collaborative design teams were tasked to achieve a design that would be judged on cost, design and quality. Reed Holland was selected as being the most efficient in fulfilling all of these criteria. The project was completed on time and below the tendered budget.

Feedback from the school has exceeded our initial expectations; not only have the original design aims been achieved, they have been surpassed. There was initial concern regarding how the variety of spaces within the building would be received, but these have been embraced by pupils and staff alike. An example of this is experienced when entering dedicated teaching spaces; ceiling heights have been dropped, acoustic performance enhanced and the rooms north lit to avoid shadow and glare. These spaces have intentionally been made ‘sensory sensitive’.

Collaborative working was adopted from the outset. The design team met on a regular basis and liaised directly with the ACD (Autism Communications Department), Somerset County, facility managers, school teachers and the main contractor. The team also visited existing units within Somerset to learn through previous success and failure.

The project provides a valuable resource for children with ASD and has successfully avoided institutional stereotypes that have historically plagued this form of building. The project has delivered the client’s aspirations and exceeded all of its key performance requirements. The design process demonstrated collaborative working at its best, where the design team, key stakeholders (Autism Communications Department), the Local Authority and the end users, pupils and teachers alike, actively worked together to achieve a completed building that was below budget and to programme and has benefited the community as a whole.

This building received a nomination for a RICS award in 2015.