School Canopy Case Study - Henry Tyndale School, Hampshire

Hampshire School Canopy


Littlethorpe of Leicester took on a challenging and potentially hazardous outdoor School Canopies job that other manufacturers had turned down to put their skills and knowledge to the test, whilst helping a very special school increase their capacity.

The Customer:

Hampshire School Canopy Construction

Henry Tyndale is a special school for children with very complex learning difficulties, situated within Farnborough under the control of Hampshire Local Authority.

The school caters for 120 children from the age of 4 to 19. The student staff ratio (especially at play time) is typically one to one. In order to increase the amount of students the school needed to expand in size. An outdoor canopy was the most cost effective way of achieving this goal, as they work effectively as an outdoor classroom.

Problems Encountered:

A high pressure oil pipe line runs underground from a south coast storage facility directly to Heathrow Airport exactly underneath where the canopies were required. There was no other location for the proposed canopies that would make any sense. The owner of the pipe line, Esso, would not allow any digging within 3M of the pipe line i.e. no foundations for the canopy could be dug and canopies need substantial foundations to prevent up lift from the wind; think – a very large carport, is a kind of ridged kite on legs so does need to be held down. Fixing directly to the building was also not an option.

Esso had the power of veto over any activity near their pipeline and because the pipeline is both dangerous and a piece of national infrastructure they were always going to be inflexible. In addition, because Esso might, in certain unforeseen and extreme circumstances, need to do emergency work on the pipeline at very short (or no) notice, Esso were insistent that the canopy must be able to be dismantled (at the schools expense) in two hours to allow Esso’s contractors plant (JCB’s etc.) to work unhindered directly above the pipeline; also directly under where the canopies would be.

Hampshire School Canopy Construction

The Resolution:

Littlethorpe of Leicester was advised to walk away from a job this complex (as competitors had done) but we were aware that the school and the students had a real need.

Esso’s requirements were established after much deliberation, and after several design changes they were satisfied with the plans.

We realised if we made the foundations big enough we could have them above ground (without bolting them down) rather than where you would expect them; below ground. Our structural engineer calculated the exact size of foundation required which we cast from concrete into specially made formers in our factory. After the (above ground) foundations were installed at the school we covered the foundation blocks with foam filled bumpers to protect the students from collision with the blocks, which also made the blocks look acceptable visually.

Part 1: the foundations could be moved out of the way easily with a fork lift truck or crane/JCB at very short notice.

Hampshire School Canopy Construction

Part 2: the frame work was designed as a pair of continuous 30M long laminated hardwood beams jointed into vertical posts which in turn were bolted to the foundation blocks. The lateral beams were designed to split into pre-determined sections for ease of removal with a crane/JCB or Fork lift truck. These were installed when the school was closed.

Part 3: Removable roof sections were designed in 5M x 6M sizes. To prove they could be removed within the time scale specified (under 2 hours) and also to avoid working in the playground where the disabled students had to come out and play daily (adjacent to the school) the roof sections were built on the ground in a separate fenced off area of the school grounds (rather than where the canopies were going to be installed which was adjoining the school). All the canopy sections were built during term time (on the ground). When the school was closed a crane was brought in which lifted all the sections for both canopies into place within a day.


The glazing material chosen was triple wall polycarbonate in Bronze colour to give some additional protection from UV in sunlight. Thought was given as to whether this might make the school classrooms adjacent to the canopies dark, this proved not to be the case (even though the roof is very large), the colour of the roof blends well with the overall school building and surrounds. The finish on the FSC certified hardwood (sustainably sourced) was dark oak, sometimes a lighter sand colour is more appropriate. The pitch of the roof was designed to be exactly the same as the main school building (10 degrees) to avoid a clash of architectural styles. The steel guttering takes the rain water from the roof via down pipes to ground level through a special channel designed into the concrete foundation blocks to house the down pipes.

Timescale & Budget:

Hampshire School Canopy Construction

The whole job took about nine months to design and plan. The canopy was constructed on time and exactly on budget.

Build Team:

Our chartered civil engineering project manager, structural engineer and designer worked with the school, the schools Landlord (Hampshire county council) and Esso’s surveyors.

Feedback from the schools headmaster:

The client is very pleased with the job, and thinks that the result was good value for money. He did not find working with the Littlethorpe team stressful and called it “refreshing”.

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