Northstowe Education Campus was born out of a need for an increase in educational facilities in the area. Kier was appointed in late 2017 to design and construct the first phase of the new Education Campus, a secondary school within the developing new town of Northstowe in Cambridgeshire, with an overall value of approx. £42m.

An exemplar design was required to suit Cambridgeshire County Council’s aspirations and the demands of the local masterplan. Senior design manager at Kier Regional Building Eastern, Will Hendry, discusses below what it took to deliver a scheme like this, and the ongoing impact it continues to have in the world of educational design.

“The school was developed in close consultation with Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust alongside Cambridgeshire County Council and Homes England. The design had to be tailored to suit the Trust’s vision as well as allowing for future flexibility. It was vital the campus delivered architectural excellence by providing innovative and inspiring buildings with high quality, welcoming and inclusive arrival spaces.

The project, the first of three phases included a 600-place secondary school with 12 Form of Entry core facilities, a 110-place SEN school and an energy centre which is suitably sized to service the completed campus. The project included provision for shared community sports and leisure facilities including indoor and outdoor sports facilities, a gymnasium, three activity studios, a learning resource centre and a 400-seat theatre/main hall for use by production companies.

Since its completion in summer 2020, the school has gone on to achieve a Structural Timber Award for Best Education Project of the Year and has attracted a lot of positive publicity for its innovative timber design.

The project won the award due to its use of Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) as the structural solution. This was used for three reasons; speed of construction, sustainability and interior design. The use of CLT enabled fast track construction, with good thermal properties, low air leakage and a natural aesthetic where it’s left exposed.
To discuss the success of the use of timber in the project, I have been selected to be a panel member for a virtual webinar today called ‘Why it’s time to build more wooden schools’.

Our cross laminated timber subcontractor, Eurban, and its timber supplier Stora Enso are hosting the webinar to discuss the benefits of structural timber and open up a healthy debate about its merits and delving into why more schools aren’t built out of timber. I was invited by Eurban following the success of Northstowe Education Campus, and my experiences in building with timber since 2007.

The webinar will also be attended by Andy Daly, the Executive Principal of the Northstowe Learning Community part of the Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust and James Mills from the architects on the project, Frank Shaw Associates.

Both Andy and James were involved in the Northstowe Project from its inception and have been instrumental in decision making on the project. This is both as part of the needs of the schools within Northstowe Learning Community and as part of the coordination with Kier and our subcontractors.

I am expecting conversations to arise regarding the use of timber over traditional alternatives, the strength and versatility of timber, and what benefits the use of timber¬ might add to the building user’s health and wellbeing. With the need for quality new schools across the UK and overseas, it’s important to recognise the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of wood materials, which can improve the lives of students and teachers across the board.”

Today’s webinar starts at 4pm and is free to view online by registering here -

To find out more about the Northstowe Education Campus project, read our case study here -