Jun 20, 2018 Last Updated 7:43 AM, Jun 6, 2018

Off-site construction proves a smart choice for Dagenham school

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The recently-opened £18m Goresbrook School in Dagenham provides compelling evidence of how off-site construction has truly established itself as the smarter choice for education projects large and small, according to Orla Corr, Executive Chairperson of The McAvoy Group.


McAvoy was awarded the contract for the 10,381m² project through the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) Framework which is funded through the Education Funding Authority.

As principal contractor, McAvoy was responsible for leading the project from feasibility approval, outline and then detailed design through to planning and delivery of all internal and external aspects of the challenging and complex scheme.

“The role of principal contractor is one that suits our skillset and experience very well,” says Orla Corr.

“We very much pride ourselves in our ability to take the stress, uncertainty and project concerns off of our clients’ shoulders. Our unique approach, which incorporates partnership, collaboration and engagement underpinned by unparalleled sectoral experience, has been a key element in the building of our reputation as acknowledged experts in off-site modular construction throughout the UK and Ireland.”

The McAvoy Group has been an off-site trailblazer throughout the UK and Ireland in recent years, becoming the first company of its kind to achieve BRE BIM Level 2 accreditation – well ahead of the Government’s deadline of April 2016. It was also the first off-site modular company to become involved in the Offsite Management School, a new industry-wide leadership group aimed at helping suppliers meet the challenges facing the construction industry over the next five years as part of the Government’s 2025 Industrial Strategy.

Light-filled spaces

Goresbrook School stands as a paragon of modular construction, occupying a substantial site at Ripple Road, Dagenham, and providing continuing education for the children of its adjacent nursery school which opened in 2015.

The new institution, run by London Borough of Barking and Dagenham’s organisation United Learning, forms a beautiful community hub and optimal learning environment for children from three to 18 to develop, grow and learn, from reception to sixth form.

The outstanding new construction was completed ahead of schedule and features leading-edge, ecologically-sound materials. The structure was designed to create natural, lofty, light-filled spaces with complementary facilities including gymnasium and spectator seating. It is also wheelchair accessible with lifts throughout permitting access to all floors.

Logical choice

Off-site construction was a logical choice for the Goresbrook development, due to a number of factors, not least McAvoy’s trademark ‘Think Smart. Build Smart’ philosophy.

The ‘Smart’ ethos enables McAvoy to deliver large scale projects like this, within a challenging timeframe – with 80% of the classroom build taking place off site. Furthermore, McAvoy’s modular process, when coupled with BIM, also provides certainty around build times, whole-life costs and overall building performance.

The efficient and ‘joined up’ approach meant McAvoy teams were able to work simultaneously building modules at its Dungannon and Lisburn plants whilst undertaking demolition and enabling works on site. Stringent planning conditions were met through close collaboration with London Borough of Barking and Dagenham.

As a consequence, the school was delivered several months faster than would have been the case using traditional construction methods.

Goresbrook posed a number of challenges for McAvoy: it was a complex combination of demolitions, alterations and refurbishments – also incorporating brand new modular builds.

The project involved the partial demolition of an existing leisure centre, including its swimming pool and administration block, as well as significant refurbishment on the remaining buildings on the site.

McAvoy was further faced with the challenges arising from increased noise and reduced air quality due to the school’s close proximity to the busy A13 dual carriageway alongside the site.

In response, the resultant design solution involved an acoustic upgrade to the windows and external walls of the facade facing the road, together with attenuation of the incoming ventilation grilles.

The new-build component of the overall scheme – the primary and secondary sections located at either end of the existing school building – each incorporated a merging of modular construction methods with traditional, which added pressure on the delivery of the overall programme of works.

Overcoming the wide range of complex challenges required a huge amount of planning before a single sod could be cut. The design development process was therefore extensive. And, as is inherent in the McAvoy mindset of making clients’ lives easier, engagement with all stakeholders got underway very early.

Continuous engagement

McAvoy’s experts and project managers scheduled consultations with members of the school trust, management and principal, with local planning officials and the EFA and instigated a series of specific design user groups.

McAvoy’s continuous engagement with the client ensured the project, which included 7000m² of new-build and 3000m² of refurbishment to existing buildings, ran smoothly from start to finish. In addition, McAvoy was able to provide temporary teaching facilities for the primary school for the duration of the works.

Phase 1 of the scheme, the primary school, was handed over in April 2016 with Phase 2, the secondary school, unveiled in September 2016.

McAvoy Group’s Managing Director, Eugene Lynch, said the speed at which McAvoy can co-ordinate and produce a bespoke solution tailored to suit any given environment was of particular benefit to the education sector.

“Off-site construction brings with it the benefits of speed, flexibility, decreased disruption and a greatly reduced impact on the environment.

“Our growing reputation across the UK for the quality of the school buildings we deliver has resulted in significant success across a number of major frameworks that have been established for the delivery of schools funded through the Education Funding Agency.

“In the past three years, we have completed 12 projects worth £81m under the auspices of various frameworks.”

Goresbrook was also the site of the first Buildoffsite Education Hub meeting in June 2016 when members had the opportunity to tour the showcase facility and discuss the various challenges addressed in the build as well as its key design features.

In recent years, McAvoy has had success on being placed on a number of prestigious building frameworks in the education, health and commercial sectors.

He added that the success of projects like this provide a snapshot of McAvoy’s vision for the future of a construction industry.

“As sectoral pioneers, we plan to continue that journey as a means of ensuring we can, with our professional partners, deliver better projects up to 50% faster than traditional construction methods, thereby positioning off-site front and centre of the broader construction industry.”

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