Maber Wilsthorpe School – BIM Level 2 project delivered in six weeks


An exciting education project in Derbyshire was completed in super quick time using BIM Level 2 which was assigned for the £12m secondary school new build. Using BIM and ARCHICAD meant that the design was delivered by the appointed architect and lead designer Maber in just 6 weeks.

The project itself was Wilsthorpe School situated in Long Eaton – the build formed part of the Government-led Priority School Building Programme (PSBP2). The school previously resided in several 1960/70s buildings servicing around 1000-1250 pupils. They had been allocated funding to bring the building and surroundings up to date and in line with the teaching quality. The site itself is shared with the local infant and junior school which in itself presented a challenge. The new single ‘super block’ replaced several out-dated buildings on site

Maber Project Wilsthorpe School situated in Long Eaton
Maber Project Wilsthorpe School situated in Long Eaton

BIM Level 2

As funds were coming out of a central public scheme for procurement, BIM Level 2 was been selected for the project. The client – Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) appointed Maber along with Kier Construction and other multiple consultant specialist teams. The school had been chosen as the first from a batch of 10 that had been awarded funding throughout the Midlands and Kier had been successful in bidding for.

Tight timescales meant a quick design turnaround required

With construction planned for between school years it was imperative that an intense design process was implemented from the start. The team spent only half a day a week with the client and so using ARCHICAD was vital in order to meet strict deadlines.

Maber had worked before on ESFA priority school projects and so were able to draw on experience from their previous work. As schools utilise a similar spec such as classroom size, light and ventilation requirements the experienced architects were able to use a proven standard they already had for floor and wall constructions.

Use of ARCHICAD meant that technical details could be easily replicated which made for a more efficient process. It also meant that any changes could be quickly made to the 3D model due to the standardised construction elements.

Whilst waiting for planning permission the early design meant that the steelwork structure was ready for manufacture.

“We had complete confidence that the BIM model was buildable from the moment we got planning permission. This was critical in ensuring the school could be completed on time. As soon as we got planning, we were able start manufacturing the steel immediately,” said Lee Smith – Associate Director at Maber.

Internal Maber Project Wilsthorpe School situated in Long Eaton
Internal Maber Project Wilsthorpe School situated in Long Eaton

Working together

Collaborative working was a big factor in the success of this project. From the very first week it was possible for Maber to share information with structural engineers via Industry Foundation Classes (IFC). This provided a collection of zones to work the steel frame around. IFCs were shared with other parties too including the steel manufacturer, fire engineer, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer and furniture designer. BIMCloud and Teamwork were used to help the collaboration process between designers and it also meant that several architects could work on the design at once. Using this method meant that ‘live’ model files could be viewed and amended whilst on site with contractors.

Asset Management using BIM Level 2

Asset management was important for the school’s future and its ability to run smoothly. This was also an important requirement for BIM Level 2. Through the BIM Execution Plan (BEP) it was identified that all consultants would use COBie classification. COBie and Uniclass classifications were used in ARCHICAD zones and Solibri Model Checker was used to validate the architectural model before it was used wider. Any key errors or clashes were picked up on early and therefore meant onsite delays were avoided.

ARCHICAD improved speed and communication

From the outset of the project right through to the end it was the visualisation tools in ARCHICAD that were used to communicate with stakeholders. It was the ARCHICAD sun path analysis, C4D rendering engine and the BIMx project presentation app that helped productive meetings take place with the client and improved decision making.

An early concern was how the neighbouring school might be overshadowed but the sun shading analysis from ARCHICAD meant that this issue could be evaluated without impacting the project schedule.
It took only 4 weeks for Maber to produce 90% of the developed design from which a full colour large scale 3D model was printed. Using the BEP to produce the 3D building model meant visualisations were simple to pull together.

“We used Graphisoft’s BIMx visualisation tool early on. With the help of an Xbox controller linked to a MacBook, BIMx helped the client to visualise the atrium space. It meant we were able to answer the client’s questions quickly and easily. In addition, once the design was finalised, pupils were able to see what their new school would look like using BIMx and Google cardboard.” Lee said.

Offsite construction and careful planning

The construction window was only 14 months and due to another school being on site the timetable for building had to be carefully planned. Electrical, gas and water works were completed during the school 6-week holidays when no children were on site. Prefabricated concrete slabs and the steel frame were made offsite and then craned into place in order to speed up the overall build.

Completion in September 2018 was possible thanks to the agile construction planning and process and the professionals involved along the way.