Meet the finalists

SCHOOLS UNDER £20 M
All Finalists2020 Winners

James Wood

Morgan Sindall Construction

Modern methods champion James Wood took on a fearsomely fast build programme on this new-build and remodelling project with great success. His chosen modular approach delivered a 20-week time improvement on a traditional build, while addressing modular’s pitfalls as he captured its benefits. And while protecting the programme, he still delivered a standard of quality with a fully commissioned and snag-free handover that delighted the client.

About the Project

Vandyke Upper School, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire

Construction of three-storey teaching block and remodelling and refurbishment of existing school, completed in 33 weeks.

Client: Vandyke Upper School

Contract: JCT, design and build

Value: £11m

This three-storey new-build project demanded a fearsomely fast construction programme to open in time for the new academic year. Modern methods man James Wood met it by turning to modular construction to achieve a 20-week improvement on what would have been required by a traditional build.

As aware of the modular pitfalls as of the benefits, James worked closely with the modules supplier to tailor the factory work processes so that the inherent risks associated with site installations could be minimised. He also sent at least two members of his team to the factory every week to witness quality assurance processes.

Part of his effective running of the programme stemmed from encouraging the furniture and fittings supplier to visit the module factory to finalise its design and to manufacture (and store) the furniture three months before installation. And by splitting the erection sequence for the 87 modules into two complete halves, he was able to start external critical path works earlier.

Beyond the modular success, James made major time gains in the new build’s ground by using the existing stone surface for the piling mat. Likewise, his tweaking of the site levels on the cut and fill for four netball courts eliminated hundreds of muck-away lorry movements.

James altered the position of the attenuation tank to enable installation early in the programme. And with the refurbishment of the school’s existing kitchen, he protected the programme by insisting on locating the internal trench for the drainage under the new servery area so it could be undertaken at the same time as other elements of the refurbishment.

On a super-tight programme, James delivered on time – handing over the new build fully commissioned and snag-free on the Friday, with students starting classes the following Monday – and to a standard that matched the client’s high expectations. Add in a lengthy delay in gaining planning permission and the pandemic lockdown beginning just as the first delivery of modules to site was scheduled, and it is clear quite what an exceptional performance this was.