Subscribe to our free fortnightly newsletter and stay ahead with the latest news in edtech

A robust solution

A new secondary school in Cambridgeshire is the first to use a revolutionary new off-site building system

Posted by Dave Higgitt | April 04, 2014 | Bricks & mortar

Cambourne Village College is the first new secondary school to be constructed in Cambridgeshire for 30 years and was the second contract to be awarded to Yorkon (a member of the Portakabin Group) by Kier Construction. The contract was for three two-storey teaching wings for the college, which were built using Yorkon’s new off-site building system.

Designed by Frank Shaw Associates, the secondary school provides teaching accommodation for 750 pupils aged 11 to 16. The new Yorkon off-site building system that was specified for the three teaching wings reduced the number of steel-framed modules by half to just 60, which were craned into position in just two weeks. This solution was more sustainable because it reduced the number of vehicle movements and work on site, and there are fewer internal columns to facilitate space planning and any future reconfiguration required to meet changing local needs. Each module was delivered with a high-performance concrete floor already in place, further reducing work on site, improving quality and acoustics, and providing a robust finish for a demanding secondary school environment.

Commenting on the project, Sean Sumner, deputy head at Cambourne Village College, said: “The children and staff absolutely love their new school and you would never know the teaching wings were built in a factory. The feel is very solid and robust and we particularly like the amount of space and light, the wide corridors and the size of the classrooms.

“Building work in schools can cause huge disruption to teaching and there is the safety aspect to consider – with off-site construction you can minimise the impact of those issues. If we need to expand the school in the coming years, we would definitely consider an off-site solution again, which would give us the opportunity to increase capacity very quickly and easily.”

Matthew Chillingsworth, senior project manager at Kier Construction, said: “The use of off-site construction has provided us with the quality and speed of construction that the school required. The approach created a watertight building envelope at a much earlier stage in the project, which was safer and cleaner for other trades who were working on the site at the time. The whole project has been a great success and, most importantly, the staff and children are really delighted with the building.”

The school campus features a central mall with three teaching wings radiating from it and a series of sheltered courtyards to encourage outdoor learning. The ends of the curriculum blocks each have full-height stair towers and a balcony at first-floor level creating an additional outside space. There are also circulation areas which open on to the central core with no divisions between zones to allow passive surveillance to reduce bullying and anti-social behaviour.

The west wing is dedicated to science and technology, the central wing houses generic classrooms for maths, languages and humanities, and facilities for IT and art are located in the east wing. A cross laminated timber structure was used by Kier for the central core that accommodates the larger communal spaces such as the dining hall, sports halls and gym.

The building has been clad in a combination of timber, dark brickwork and render to create a strong identity for the new school and to reflect the surrounding landscape. Render was used for the teaching areas, interspersed with panels of timber cladding.

The school also has strong sustainability credentials: efficient building orientation; a heat recovery ventilation system; a highly efficient building envelope to reduce heat loss; an air source pump to heat the hall spaces; high levels of natural light, and daylight presence detectors to automatically switch off lights.


The project team

Client: Cambridgeshire County Council
Contractor: Kier Construction
Off-site specialist: Yorkon
Concept architects: Frank Shaw Associates

Subscribe to our free fortnightly newsletter and stay ahead with the latest news in edtech

Related stories

Portakabin awarded Offsite Project of the Year

Offsite module construction benefits build at Priory Fields

UK's first UTC built offsite wins top industry award

Market place - view all


Vivark is a Social Enterprise based in the North West. Our expert ...

Meru networks

Meru began with a vision that sooner rather than later most enterpr...


Need a portable cabin or modular building?

We sell and hire ...