The Victorian government has selected the Learning Communities Victoria consortium as the preferred bidder for a $291 million PPP project to deliver 15 new schools.

Under the New Schools Public Private Partnership contract, which is due to be finalised in October, the consortium will finance, design, build and maintain the schools for a 25-year term.

The consortium comprises UK-based investment heavyweight Amber Infrastructure, builder Watpac, architects ClarkeHopkinsClarke, facilities manager Spotless and community partners YMCA and CERES.

“Using the PPP model brings together the best expertise and means our teachers and principals can focus on giving every child a world class education,” Victorian education minister James Merlino said.

The schools will be incorporating additional community facilities and programs in each design so they can also function as community hubs, and the consortium’s community partners, YMCA and CERES, will run community and environmental programs at each school.

Local school reference groups will be established for each school in the year prior to opening, providing a link between the project and the broader community during the initial planning and construction stage.

The government expects construction to commence at the end of the year, with many schools to be operational from 2017.

It is understood achieving high levels of sustainability in the design, construction and operation of the new schools was a core requirement in the government’s brief to bidders, and the involvement of Amber and CERES would seem to indicate this is the case.

CERES is an environmental sustainability organisation based in Brunswick. Among its activities are delivering programs including training and education in sustainability for individuals, companies and schools.

Amber Infrastructure has made sustainability a key element in its asset development and investment funds management approach. It is currently managing more than 120 projects in the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Canada and Australia including renewable energy projects, schools, health facilities, civil infrastructure, urban renewal, transport infrastructure and funds for energy efficiency.

Assets it has developed in Australia include the Gold Coast Rapid Transit light rail, the Royal Melbourne Children’s Hospital, the Royal Melbourne Showgrounds Redevelopment, Orange Hospital and the New South Wales Government’s New Schools 2 PPP project, which commenced in 2006 with Amber continuing to hold a 25 per cent ownership interest in the 11 new schools.