Volumetric Construction Project

Building Area: 2600 m2
Construction Value: £6.5m
Project Period: 2016 – 2018

Springhead Primary School is a 2-Form Entry School that is constructed entirely from volumetric modular units, including the larger hall spaces. The project utilised the full potential of the volumetric construction method to deliver large spaces and architectural features to provide a landmark community building.

Our key challenge was to, not only deliver the school within a tight construction programme and budget, but also to provide a sustainable solution of architectural merit that met the high expectations of the Local Planning Authority for the site.  The design and construction team were able to push the boundaries of volumetric construction to achieve a very successful design outcome whilst meeting the budget and programme constraints.

Producing a primary school that is woven into the fabric of the new garden city residential development was paramount, so we made strong use of existing urban design features in order to retain the community connection.

The main entrance connects to an existing plaza and, by extension, we have been able to connect the school to the existing open spaces and community centre; this facilitated a welcoming and inclusive environment which supports the needs of all students.

The volumetric construction method, utilised on the Springhead Primary School, offered us significant time efficiencies throughout both the design and construction of the programme. By decreasing the overall construction programme, we were able to achieve the Client’s desired occupation date – something that was “set in stone” from the project’s onset and was a key driver for the overall success of the project.

Another key driver for the project, and one of the Client’s strict requirements, was the need to adhere to the project budget – something set out at the project’s early onboarding stage. When weighing up our options for the design of the project – especially when considering the need to work with the tight-knit constrained urban site – it was decided that a volumetric approach to the design and delivery would offer our team the greatest freedom of design and the greatest freedom to control costs.

The need for a high quality and well-detailed solution was another driver in adopting the volumetric approach.

The limitations imposed by the available space on the site were another reason to choose a volumetric solution. The opportunity to add striking architectural features and also deliver a high-quality solution for both the site and the budget could only be offered by a volumetric solution.

Those benefits, offered to us through the use of volumetric technologies, have been vast on the Springhead Primary School.

Due to the lightweight construction of the project – made achievable by the use of volumetric technologies – we were able to reduce embodied carbon in the foundations. Improved insulation and air tightness means that we were able to reduce the heating and cooling demands of the building via the delivery of a highly-efficient building envelope. This, in turn, offered the Client lower operational carbon and reduced running costs for the building’s lifetime.

As part of our design process, we were able to engage with the volumetric provider, Integra, to identify areas where the use of a volumetric solution could create energy efficiencies through integrating sustainable technologies in a factory setting. This was the case with our use of heat recovery systems that were able to be installed into the volumetric units within a factory setting. This ensured a maximum level of efficiency from the final systems without causing any delays on-site – thus creating better building performance and energy efficiency, whilst also ensuring that the project adhered to the overall programme.

In accordance with the Client’s wishes to deliver the scheme using modular construction, the design programme was adjusted to allow for more detailed design and collaboration between ourselves, the wider design team, the main contractor and the volumetric solution provider.

Prior to submitting our proposal to the local authority’s planning department, the design was coordinated with our proposed modular contractor to ensure that our proposed design and building layout maximised the efficiencies of the modular construction method.

There was a strong onus placed on a high-level of detailed design coordination at RIBA Stage 4 ahead of design sign-off and approval ahead of moving into the construction stages. By coordinating closely with the supply factory and modular contractor, we could ensure that the production of the volumetric units commenced in line with the start of works on site. This meant that, by running the early on-site works and factory production of the volumetric units concurrently, we could ensure that the units were delivered as soon as the below-ground preparation works were completed. By engaging with both the supply chain and modular contractor in this way, we could ensure that there were no delays to the programme due to waiting for the on-site works to catch up with the factory production, or vice versa.

The simple use of an offsite construction methodology itself has led to a reduction of on-site waste by constructing the units in a controlled factory setting. This not only decreased on-site waste, but also reduced the carbon footprint imposed by the building during the construction stages.

During the design stages – and especially during the approval gateway between Stages 3 and 4 – we were able to work hand-in-hand with the manufacturer to set out standardised dimensions for the volumetric units, thus allowing our design to maximise efficiency from the standardised construction elements – for example, timber lengths and sheet material dimensions.

We were also able to embed sustainability within the design and manufacture of the volumetric units. By working closely with our supply chain, we were able to reduce the project’s energy usage by integrating heat recovery systems into the volumetric units that we were using. By doing this, we have been able to use our modular approach to help ensure that the building’s energy performance is heightened, whilst offering our Client lowered running costs for the project.

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