News & Insights

Stronger together: Collaborating for success during Covid-19


Despite the challenges and disruption caused by COVID-19, a combination of innovation, ingenuity, and collaboration with key partners including the Southern Construction Framework (SCF) has enabled Morgan Sindall Construction’s London and Northern Home Counties teams to safely continue construction works on a number of important community projects across the region - and still deliver to programme.

Amidst a number of project successes, two unique schemes at different stages of the project lifecycle stand out as exemplars of the power of collaboration and innovation against the huge challenges posed by the pandemic.

At the start of 2020, the company’s Northern Home Counties team was appointed to deliver a major expansion and refurbishment to create 240 new places at Vandyke Upper School in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire.

In summer 2020, the company’s London team was appointed by Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust to construct a mixed patient clinical services and medical education facility for the Evelina London Children’s Hospital, the second largest provider of children's services in London.

Both projects were procured under the Southern Construction Framework (SCF), a quality-managed collaborative construction framework for public bodies to procure major building works using a two-stage open book process to deliver best value.

At Vandyke Upper School, the Morgan Sindall Construction team remodelled the existing school and constructed a brand new, modular, three storey block of 12 science labs, 10 maths classrooms and a sixth form centre. Working with modular supply chain partners Eco Modular, the project team utilised off-site manufacturing on the project to minimise disruption, create cost and time efficiencies, and enhance the building’s sustainability performance.

The project was successfully delivered in time for the start of the academic year in September, creating a contemporary, future-fit learning environment which will benefit young people living locally and bolster the region’s educational offering. A celebratory capsule burying ceremony marked the milestone for students, teachers, and the project team who had worked steadily throughout the peak of the pandemic to ensure the school was safely delivered on time.

James Wood, project manager at Vandyke Upper School, said: “Teamwork has been paramount to the success of the project and we’ve been fortunate to build excellent relationships with the head teachers and senior leadership teams, as well as AMR Consult, the project management partner for the two schemes.

“The SCF framework has enabled us to create a very open and collaborative process with the client from the outset. SCF promotes regular gatherings around the table. These are an opportunity to raise items that have been successful and learnings that can be built upon.”

Vandyke Upper School Headteacher, Tim Carroll, said: “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.”

David Rowsell, Morgan Sindall Construction’s Northern Home Counties area director, said: “Collaboration, connection, and a meticulous focus on phasing and careful planning has been key to the successful delivery of this project. The team has done a fantastic job engaging with all the key project partners and the client to ensure the best possible solutions were in place to deliver this project.

“Vandyke is the fourth off-site building we have delivered in the last two years in the Northern Home Counties. Our experience adopting modern methods of construction to deliver high-quality projects has stood our team in good stead, and brought particular benefits during the pandemic due to modular’s flexibility and ability to enhance health and safety in delivery by lowering man hours on site and assisting with managing social distancing, and without compromising on quality.

“From commencing on site in January 2020 the majority of the programme has been through the peak of the Covid pandemic. From the outset, the project team created a very focused, collaborative approach to delivering with the supply chain and especially the modular contractor. This ensured that despite significant challenges encountered through the global pandemic, the project was run safely and effectively and was still been handed over on time and the client is absolutely delighted.”

Following the start of work at Evelina Children’s Hospital in August, the project, while still in its early stage, is progressing on schedule. Here, the Morgan Sindall Construction team was appointed during the peak of the pandemic and worked closely with the client through the pre-construction stage of the project.

A major expansion was needed to enable the hospital to grow its services and expand capacity as part of a wider vision to develop as a world leading centre of life-changing care for children, young people and their families.

The new five-storey development will allow the hospital to provide expanded clinical services and meet demand within new facilities that ensure the best possible patient environment. It will also provide high-quality education and training accommodation to support both retaining existing staff and attracting new medical students into the profession. It will also free up valuable space in the main hospital wing, so that more children can be treated. While flexible future proofed accommodation will be adaptable to the changing requirements of the Trust’s services.

Collaboration and early engagement were critical to ensuring a successful design phase, which is key to the eventual delivery of an outstanding facility for the hospital. Morgan Sindall Construction worked closely with the team at Guy’s and St Thomas’ during the pre-construction phase of the development to develop detailed construction methodology plans on this logistically tight site. They also supported the team on the design development for the project, to ensure work could progress successfully, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.

With a positive, collaborative project ethos supported and enabled by the Southern Construction Framework (SCF) the Morgan Sindall Construction team brought expert insight to the cost and programme model of the project, to create a successful delivery model to enable the creation of an outstanding facility for the Trust, within the original budgetary and time constraints.

James Wright, SCF framework manager, said: “This is a great success story for SCF, not only was this the first project to be procured and completed in this region under the framework’s new fourth generation, but it was also delivered under challenging circumstances during the national lockdown. This is a testament to the collaborative ethos of the framework, with the entire project team working together to ensure the safe delivery of this school to the programme.”

Richard Dobson, area director for Morgan Sindall Construction in London, said: “The pandemic has significantly shifted the landscape for clients - throwing up new challenges and obstacles for consideration, particularly at the crucial early design stage.
“By working closely with the team at Evelina at the very outset of the project, enabled and supported by the team at SCF, we were able to shape the pre-construction phase of the project. This meant we were able to unlock the logistics and develop a detailed construction delivery plan, taking full account of live environment in which the project is being built. Using our team’s significant experience in delivering complex healthcare developments within highly compact, prominent urban locations in the capital to support the client in delivering this world-class development.”

As a result of early engagement and positive collaboration between all project partners, work on the development started on schedule, to budget, and is on track for scheduled completion, with key milestones and targets being met, despite the disruption that Covid has caused in the capital.

  • For more information about this news release please contact Ruth Cobban at Influential on 07814 556 567 or email