Meet the finalists

SCHOOLS Over £20 M
All Finalists2020 Winners

James Gray MCIOB

BAM Construction

James Gray’s pragmatic, enthusiastic and collaborative approach to the construction and design challenges on this new-build secondary school guaranteed efficient solutions. He won big cost and programme victories through drainage reduce, spoil reuse on site, innovative ground improvement technology, and vacuum excavation for buried services. His can-do attitude inspired the delivery team as well as the professionals, resulting in a fit-for-purpose end product with a high-quality finish.

About the Project

School of Science and Technology, Maidstone

Construction of secondary school with annual pupil intake of 180, completed in 79 weeks.

Client: Department for Education

Contract: JCT 2016, design and build

Value: £25m

James Gray demonstrated impressive risk management, innovation championing and value engineering in this school project.

Some of his biggest victories were won in the ground. His revision of the drainage connection design eliminated what could have turned into £500,000 problem. And he reused materials within the site boundary to minimise waste, creating a brand-new sports pitch on the school grounds from excess earth, and processing 3,000 cubic metres of ragstone on the site for use underneath external pavements.

He overcame a poor ground makeup of soft clay and hard ragstone by pushing for controlled modulus columns rather than deep CFA piling to support the building’s steel frame. The approach, which involved placing a network of shallow concrete columns in a granular distribution bed that spreads the applied load, slashed costs as well as installation time by 75%.

James also deployed vacuum excavation for buried services. The speedy technique didn’t just eliminate manual handling but also any chance of a services strike – and with a large data centre nearby there were business-critical fibre optics already in the ground.

Once he got out of the ground, he pursued the same combination of resolve and innovation that continued to shrink the programme and keep the budget under close control. Aware of the difficulty of attracting good labourers to the site at reasonable rates, he used brick slips for the facade in lieu of traditional brickwork. It removed skilled bricklayers from the project equation, was safer, and saved both money and time.