Kier Construction has started work on a £19 million school project expected to rank as the largest structure in the UK built with the latest cross-laminated timber technology.
Foundations are now being laid for the William Perkin Church of England High School in Oldfield Lane North, Greenford, under a fast-track programme which will see the first pupils enter the new building at the start of term next September.
William Perkin High is the latest in a succession of challenging, high-speed school projects Kier has undertaken using cross-laminated timber (CLT), including the Sir Alec Reed Academy in nearby Northolt, completed last summer.
The team is on course for the first section handover for the year seven intake in September 2013 - some 10 months after Kier moved onto the former Glaxo sports and social club grounds to begin demolition of the old premises and site preparations.
The design and build contract has been awarded to Kier's Maple Cross office by Ealing Council on behalf of the Twyford Academies Trust, which will run the school.
The new school will have places for 1,200 11 to 16-year-olds, plus a sixth form with places for 250 students and a centre for children with special educational needs. The local community will also be able to use the school’s facilities, which include five sports pitches, floodlit hard playing surfaces, indoor sports hall and activity studio.
Following the first intake of pupils next September, internal fit-out works will continue until April 2014.
Kier Construction operations director Norman Elliott said: "We're off to a flying start. Having only taken possession of the site in October, the old buildings have been demolished and piling has been completed. Now the foundations are being laid, the project is really starting to come out of the ground.
"We are geared up for a fast construction programme in order to hand over to the school next August."
Cross-laminated timber (CLT) construction technology has been chosen because it offers efficient, high-speed installation using modular factory-made precision components that can be delivered to site and rapidly erected. It has proved less weather-dependent and more sustainable than conventional construction methods.
CLT specialist KLH UK is manufacturing some 3,800 cu m of timber panels, amounting to more than 1,700 tonnes and covering combined floor and wall areas totalling approximately 22,500 sq m. The panels will start arriving at Greenford in the New Year and the site installation programme is expected to be 16 - 18 weeks, allowing the various follow-on trades to complete their work under the tight timescale.
CLT is a Modern Method of Construction (MMC), using sustainably grown timber and off-site manufacturing.
At Greenford and Northolt, CLT was chosen for its outstanding environmental performance, cost-savings and time certainty - factors which Kier and its project partners had previously demonstrated in building two high profile academies in Norwich. Using timber panels instead of conventional construction has been shown to yield considerable savings in carbon emissions.