David Clark, head of manufacturing at The McAvoy Group, looks at how the latest digital construction
technology is taking off-site solutions to the next level.
Digital transformation is happening
all around us and the developing
technologies, such as global
connectivity, and new advances such
as drones, satellite images, robotics and electric
cars are set to accelerate and will continue to
change the way we live.
The construction industry, however, has been
much slower to adopt and benefit from the
digital transformation. Our view is that there is
tremendous synergy between off-site construction
and the latest digital techniques, which give us
the opportunity to radically improve the way we
design and produce buildings for our clients.
This synergy is demonstrated by an awardwinning
project to extend a special needs school
Case study: West Hill School
West Hill School is an Ofsted outstanding
special school which required new teaching
spaces for children with learning and additional
needs to accommodate the school’s conversion
from secondary education to a two-form entry
54 BUILDING PRODUCTS | JUNE 2018
The McAvoy Group was appointed by Surrey
County Council to design and build a scheme
that would link the traditionally-constructed
main building and an existing modular
classroom block on a highly constrained, fully
operational school site.
In recognition of its industry-leading
application of BIM technology for this project,
McAvoy won the RICS BIM4SME award for Best
Virtual Reality BIM.
How BIM addressed the site challenges
The West Hill scheme featured extensive use
of BIM to help address the complexities of the
site. An off-site solution had to be engineered to
accommodate a significant height difference of
870mm between the main school and the existing
modular teaching block.
Gradient differences were incorporated within
corridors using a specially-engineered double
floor beam design which also maximised off-site
Challenging ground conditions required
complex piled foundations and a supporting
steel frame. Here 3D models displayed on tablets
on-site were invaluable to better inform the
groundworks and module installation phases.
BIM also facilitated decision making with
stakeholders, with the use of 3D models and
virtual reality, rather than traditional 2D line
drawings. The school was able to see each room
and experience the space. It allowed teaching
staff to assess how the training centre could work
located as a second storey to the new classroom
block, rather than as a freestanding building
which was originally envisaged.
Reducing disruption to teaching
The building for West Hill was manufactured offsite
at McAvoy’s production centre in Northern
Ireland. This approach significantly reduced
disruption to teaching and ensured the new
facilities were ready for occupation on time and
after less than eight months on-site.
An off-site solution was also developed to
build a teacher training centre on the upper floor
as West Hill is a teaching school and national
Both of the existing school buildings at West
Hill remained in use throughout McAvoy’s