Vandyke Upper School

Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire

Project Details


Vandyke Upper School

Project Manager

AMR Consult Ltd


Architecture Initiative Limited


Morgan Sindall



Contract Period

33 weeks

Procurement Type

Design & Build

Form of Contract

JCT D&B 2016





Project Summary

The Vandyke Upper School Project is located in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire and consists of a three-storey modular teaching block and associated external works including the installation of a 120m3 attenuation tank, four new netball courts, and two separate refurbishment areas. The modular teaching block boasts new science labs and general classrooms and relocates the sixth form study areas. The refurbishment areas offer the school more general teaching space and expand the school’s kitchen and dining area.

“Morgan Sindall Construction is passionate about delivering outstanding education facilities for the next generation and we’re pleased to have successfully completed works to expand and remodel Vandyke Upper School – creating a contemporary, future-fit learning environment which will benefit young people living locally and bolster the region’s educational offering.”

“We are thrilled at what has been achieved. It will make such a difference to the experience of the students and staff. So to everybody who has worked on the project and made this possible – from me, a heart-felt thank you.”

Key Challenges

A site-specific risk assessment should be in place prior to commencing work accounting for the local environment in which the work is undertaken.

Once the vehicle is parked in a suitable position alongside the area requiring exposure the plastic nozzle is attached to the intake boom ensuring there is a good seal and the clamps are secured tightly.

Upon engaging the fans, the suction hose is placed within 200mm above the ground that is to be excavated and the fan speed may need to be adjusted depending on the build-up of the ground.

Where the material is too compacted for the suction hose alone, an air lance/pick can be used in conjunction to loosen the ground and feed the intake nozzle. If an air lance is required it is essential the operator does not stab the ground with excessive force.

Once the ground has been removed exposing the service the material is tipped in a suitable location specified onsite. Whilst tipping operations are be undertaken the vehicle air compressor should be engaged and the filter blowing system should remain on for a minimum of five minutes per discharge to ensure the system is cleared.

Project Takeaways

Our Success

  • Avoided using mechanical means to dig near live services.
  • Vacuum Excavation significantly reduced the risk of service strike as oppose to excavating with a 360 machine and bucket.
  • There was no need to disrupt existing services feeding a live school. It was not feasible to lower the services identified in a short enough time frame without significantly affect the school’s operational capabilities. The school remained operational through the entire process, so no disruption was encountered.
  • The process was more efficient and faster than conventional hand digging. Time was saved onsite due to being able to expose all the services to the required depth within 2 working days.
  • There was no requirement for manual handling. The impact on the operative’s occupational health was significantly reduced as minimal manual labour was required.

Our Learnings

  • The external works include the demolition of a brick-built cycle shelter and replacement with a bus drop off zone and new hard landscaping to the car park in front of the modular building.
  • The area beneath the cycle shelter is heavily populated with services feeding the school including LV, HV and Gas. Upon completing several trial holes in accordance with the services plan it was discovered the services were laid shallow in the ground with some having less than 500mm cover. As a result of the incoming services feeding a live school, lowering the services was not a feasible option due to an extended shutdown requirement whilst the works were ongoing. As a result, a propriety protection board has been proposed as a solution to protect the services. The cable protection was specified to be 230mm wide concrete tiles with marker tape to be installed above as a standard requirement. In order to install the protection board, the services needed to be fully exposed and the safest and most efficient method of ground clearance was Vacuum Excavation.