Photo credit: Dug Wilders
Photo credit: Dug Wilders
Photo credit: Dug Wilders
Photo credit: Dug Wilders
Photo credit: Dug Wilders

These new school buildings in Cambridgeshire are the first phase of a major new housing development to the north-west of Cambridge. The 3 large buildings are located on the former RAF Oakington base and surrounding farmland. The campus includes a Secondary School, a Special Educational Needs Facility (SEN) and an Energy Centre.

The Secondary School building opened in September 2019 for Year 7 and Year 8 pupils from the surrounding area. The school is forecast to reach its full capacity by 2025 after new year groups enrol each year. It houses a multi-purpose school hall / theatre space and drama studios, a sports hall large enough for four tennis courts, a gym, two dance studios, and an all-weather floodlit football pitch.

The SEN facility is a 1 and 2 storey building for 110 children.  It houses sensory rooms, a hydrotherapy room, a library, a music and drama Hall, a Dining area with associated kitchen and servery and classrooms equipped with hoisting equipment. The spaces are arranged around a central triangular courtyard which is accessed from the Design and Technology and Science rooms on the south-east side; the dining area on the west side and finally the corridor on the north side.

Collaborative working between the design and construction teams that developed and matured over 2 previous projects – Trumpington and Histon Schools – enabled a streamlined DfMA process which meant the tight programme could be achieved.  DfMA or Design for Manufacture and Assembly is a methodology that is integral to the delivery of mass timber buildings, and Eurban were early adopters of this approach. Thanks to the DfMA approach, the assembly of the entire mass timber superstructure is modelled and pre-planned to the last bracket and screw.

Northstowe Education Campus exemplifies the benefits that 4D BIM can bring to a project in terms of programme. 4D BIM is the introduction of time into Building Information Modelling. The 3D model becomes a ‘virtual twin’ of the building. Eurban assisted the project’s Main Contractors Kier Eastern by mapping out the deliveries, crane lifts and phased handovers of the CLT structures over time. This provided foresight into the sequencing of the overall build which enabled Kier to firm up their programme for follow on trades, ensuring the efficient site progress required to meet the tight programme. 4D BIM also helps to identify and address any sequencing issues or risks early on, giving stakeholders and clients a high degree of insight and control over the construction process.

The mass timber superstructure of this very large and complex project was designed and delivered in record time.

The three main reasons for using CLT as summarised by Kier Eastern were: speed of construction, sustainability and interior design:

  • CLT is fast and efficient on-site. The creation of a complete envelope early in the process allowed the internal fit out to progress concurrently with, yet independently of, the external cladding,
  • CLT is inherently sustainable, capturing carbon and readily recyclable. It contributes to the insulation, eliminates cold bridging and improves air tightness and
  • It provides interior design options and an aesthetic that is comfortable yet robust.

Cross Laminated Timber enabled fast track construction, with good thermal properties, low air leakage and a natural aesthetic where it is left exposed.


Project Team

  • Timber Engineers and Specialist Installers: EURBAN
  • Client: Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust
  • Suppliers: Stora Enso, Pabst, BauBuche
  • Architects: Frank Shaw Associates
  • Engineers: Price & Myers
  • Main Contractors: Kier Eastern
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