A Better Way to Build New Schools with Crocodile and Class Solutions


New schools can be built more quickly for less cost and still deliver an attractive, durable and highly flexible teaching and learning environment.


“In over 25 years of teaching, which includes trips to America and to Australia, this is the best educational environment I have ever seen” – Dr Nick Capstick, Executive Head Teacher, White Horse Federation of Schools

When Swindon Borough Council (SBC) devised a radical modular concept design for a new school build which they called Class Solutions, they turned to Crocodile Timber Frames to solve the most difficult and innovative element of the design – the engineering of a roof structure that was required over a very large clear span space.
Have a look at this video to see the clever concept design.

The new design called for an 18m x 18m clear span structure, free from any internal obstructions which meant no pillars or other supports. The result would be the creation of a large open plan, light and airy space which could then be easily configured to meet the immediate specific needs of the teaching and administration staff and the pupils, but  with the flexibility to be adapted or expanded quickly and easily as those needs changed over time.

Developing such a large and complex roof structure posed a significant engineering challenge but one which the highly experienced technical design team at Crocodile Timber Frames enthusiastically engaged with. 

In a matter of weeks the Crocodile technical team had worked through all of the structural engineering calculations and finalised a theoretical design. SBC then commissioned Crocodile to build a complete trial roof system which was extensively tested and refined.

Throughout the process Crocodile liaised closely with the SBC architects Nic Newland RIBA (Head of Design Construction at SBC) and Tony Currivan of Geomantic Design Ltd, providing ongoing feedback to enable the final design to be developed.

As Henry Corp head of Crocodile Timber Frame says “When Nic and his design team first explained the concept we immediately saw the potential benefits because the whole idea was based around what is best for teachers and pupils… The challenge was right up our street… sort the difficult roof out and then use a standard timber frame design to produce a cost effective solution… luckily we are quite good at the difficult bit so everything fell into place after that…”

Once Crocodile’s roof design had been proven and approved, the project’s architectural plans were finalised for the whole school and the full sized timber frame components were then designed by Crocodile, manufactured in their factory at South Marston, Swindon and installed on site.

Components used in the off-site trial were even recycled for use in the new school. Part of the production process included factory fitted insulation whilst the design and installation processes employed ensured that the required thermal and air-tightness standards were easily achieved.

In all, despite this being a radical new, never-done-before project, involving some complex structural design and engineering and site installation challenges, Crocodile completed the whole project’s timber frame installation from start to finish in just 14 weeks, at the highest level of quality and all within budget.

The school has now been completed and was built in just over 9 months (which included the building contractor struggling with some of the worst ground work conditions ever encountered) and staff and pupils are now enjoying a state of the art school environment, delivered at significantly less cost than a school built in the standard, “traditional” way.

Nic Newland of SBC explains “Our original concept was to develop a modular design for new schools. A learning environment based on the needs of teachers and pupils was the starting point. By using clever, simple, practical design and proven modern methods of construction we wanted to deliver a fast speed of build but with significant cost benefits. Class Solutions was the result. Crocodile’s input on the structure was critical from the initial design phase all the way through to their highly efficient manufacturing and site installation. The result is exactly as we had planned and I am so pleased that more children can now be educated in a state-of-the-art school environment at such a low cost to the tax payer.” See Children enjoy Croft school an article from the local Swindon paper.

As a result of the work done by Swindon Borough Council and Crocodile Timber Frames in challenging the old assumptions around how to develop new schools, it is now possible to build new, state of the art schools, with unprecedented internal flexibility in design and layout, to meet the specific requirements of both the teaching staff and pupils.

Such schools will be thermally insulated to modern domestic standards and because of the use of pre-manufactured timber frames, project build times are significantly shortened.

Class Solution schools are built using mainly timber, a fully sustainable resource (More new trees are planted than are actually used in the build process) which puts these schools at the forefront of environmentally friendly development.

All of this means that in future schools can be built more quickly and for less cost (up to 30% less based on a 14 classroom model) and because of the modern efficient design they can also be run and maintained much more cost effectively.

If you would like to know more about this project and how Crocodile Timber Frames might benefit your construction project please e-mail Henry Corp directly or simply call us on 01793 821555. We would be delighted to talk to you.