Case Study

Sir Frederick Gibberd College, Harlow


Sir Frederick Gibberd College, a 1,700 place school, is the first project to be allocated by direct award by the Department for Education (DfE) through their £3bn offsite framework, also known as  Modern Methods of Construction Framework (MMC1)

Our client Caledonian Modular is an industry leader in MMC. Caledonian is one of only five contractors authorised for MMC1 Lot 1 projects, which exceed 6,000m2.

A2O were appointed to carry out detailed design of the timber cladding and advise on methodology for installing the maximum amount of cladding on modules assembled off site in their Newark factory. The remaining cladding was installed on site in Harlow.

This is the largest free school ever to be awarded under such a framework. The school accommodates an 8-form entry with 500 place sixth form, Main Hall and Sports Hall available for community use and has even been featured in the national press!

The College was built with 198 large modules, each 18m x 3.5m – see both time lapse videos below. The modules come with factory-installed concrete floors, internal fit-out and external cladding, giving the classrooms a pre-manufactured value (PMV) of 91%.



Caledonian Modular and the Department of the Environment are delighted with the timber façade finish. The benefits of MMC, where cladding is part-installed in the factory conditions, came to the fore on this project. A2O’s advice, design input and knowledge were crucial to ensuring a seamless transition of installation from factory to site.

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Barrie Newman
Framework Lead


A2O were asked to do the setting out, based on the Module dimensions given by the client and to elaborate the detailed design.

Modular fabrication of bracketry shaved months off the overall programme. The largest challenge was the timber tolerances and alignment of the timber.

There was a risk that, with the modules pre-clad offsite, the horizontal and vertical joint lines on the façade would not line up once the modules were stacked on site.

Quality assurance was an important issue of this factory-based manufacturing system and A2O created a quality assurance sheet for every module end to be clad i.e. 2 for each of the 198 modules. 

Protruding timber fins were a feature detail of the main hall and sport hall elevations.


A2O‘s designers laid out the modules on the setting out drawings for all elevations, working out details for every interface and created a REVIT model.

A2O identified and made any adjustments required to the modules and backing structure, working to the highest quality for the completed building.

To ensure joints lined up on the façade, modules were arranged level to a nominal datum in the factory in the same order as they would be installed on site, to allow use of lasers for site installation.

Checks included window dpms, bracket positions in accordance with design, insulation in accordance with manufacturer’s fixing regime, preservative and fire treatment applied to both cut ends of timber.

A2O‘s skilled carpenter shaped the fins on site, enlivening the façade with the rhythmic design.

Fact File




Scope of Work



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