Technical ingenuity was Kevin Knight’s great ally on this scheme to merge split-site upper and lower schools in a replacement building on an expanded upper school site.
The logistics challenge of the site’s tight boundary constraints of a church, schools and residential accommodation was dwarfed by the restrictions imposed by what was going on below the ground. Concrete piles had to be ruled out to leave enough clearance for the Crossrail station and tunnels under construction underneath the site.
Kevin’s solution, which minimised disruption to the existing made ground, was to build the school on a concrete raft on top of 1,500 crushed stone pillars hammered into the soil by a vibrating tool. Economical and efficient, the strategy integrated shallower pad foundations into the thickness of the raft slab and greatly reduced the amount of material that had to be excavated.
Another of his initiatives increased the installation efficiency of the frame by using precast concrete columns and walls. It reduced programme and the number of concrete deliveries to site.
He brought pragmatism and user focus to the engagement challenge. Robust noise, dust and vibration monitoring stations were set up and days and times agreed when noisy works would be reduced or suspended or when playground areas were placed out of bounds to allow for construction activity.
And when it emerged that the school was unhappy with a single mammoth decant as it left too little outside space until the existing upper school had been demolished, he resequenced the works. The upper school was decanted first on completion of the new building, and the lower school moved in only after the sports pitch and the landscaping had been completed.