OHMG has school construction down to a science

OHMG developed and constructed the £20m replacement campus for St Joseph’s High School following a neuroscientific-based approach to school building design.

The part single and part two-storey school complex has a gross internal floor area of 9,607m2 and includes classroom facilities, a separate sports hall, gym hall and multipurpose hall with associated toilets, changing and shower accommodation for pupils and staff. A separate Learning Resource Centre, administrative block with offices and storage rooms, along with a dedicated school meals kitchen were also provided. 

It was important that OHMG maintained the client’s design team aesthetic developed for the school within the exemplar design which is based on the principals of the Polyvagal Theory and addresses social issues of bullying, stress, anxiety, isolation etc amongst pupils and staff. The design was formulated to interact at a subliminal level by stimulating specific, socially beneficial neural networks.

OHMG’s developed design was in keeping with this ethos and in effect, the chosen colourings, materials and forms were deliberately developed to provide a beneficial neurological grounding and calming effect. 

The build

Five construction phases were identified to allow for the continued occupancy and operation of the school, minimising disruption to pupils and teaching staff at all times throughout the project.

Prior to, and throughout the construction phase, there was a key focus on liaising with all stakeholders. Monthly meetings were held with client representatives. However, a key focus was on both the end-user school and local residents. OHMG worked to form great relationships with all key stakeholders and ensured that all parties were suitably informed prior to and during the construction phase of the works. 

A monthly newsletter was also developed and issued on noticeboards with key project information, contact details and project updates. Letter drops were used at key stages throughout the construction period, where potential increased disruption reference construction traffic or high-risk activities such as demolition or crane lifts were taking place. 


Internally, the electrical services include mains supply and switchgear installations, sub mains distribution, structured cabling installation, general lighting, emergency lighting, exterior lighting, specialist stage lighting and audio systems. Life safety systems comprise fire alarm installations and security intruder alarms with general power, lightning protection installation, ICT installations, TV aerial installation and distribution, PV installation, CCTV, Access control and electrical services in connection with mechanical services. A passenger lift and specialist installations for disabled use were constructed, including communications, disabled refuge and toilet alarms. 

The mechanical services include ventilation, LTHW and heating. Three gas-powered boilers power the underfloor heating and ventilation systems. Sanitary ware and hygiene plumbing systems incorporating soils and wastes and kitchen installations all meet the strict energy and water usage requirements of BREEAM Excellent. They incorporate low water usage and rainwater harvesting, all controlled by the building BMS system. 

Commenting on the completed project, Edward O’Hare, Contracts Manager at OHMG said, “The school is an excellent example of our capability in delivering brilliance in the education sector within Northern Ireland. The project also demonstrates how well our design and construction teams were able to collaborate and successfully deliver the new school while overcoming the recent construction industry hurdles.

“The project was also a testament to our programming and liaison skills, which helped us successfully deliver each phase with minimal disruption to the live school facilities. As part of our Considerate Constructors approach, ongoing liaison with the local Crossmaglen community and neighbours of the school was critical to maintaining a positive awareness around the project. We are confident that our legacy here will live on through the state-of-the-art facilities now provided at St Joseph’s High School.”

For the full feature on St Joseph’s, check out Northern Builder Issue 34-1 here.