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A2O Limited – Reasons to celebrate

todayJanuary 20, 2022


This year sees Essex-based A2O Limited celebrating two decades of operation and an indication of the quality that has led to this longevity was demonstrated recently when it won a Façade Award 2021 within the Best Use of a Timber Clad System category.

The award success was for a development at Sir Frederick Gibberd College in Harlow, which was the first project to be allocated by direct award by the Department for Education (DfE) through its £3bn offsite framework, also known as Modern Methods of Construction Framework (MMC1). 

The client on the development was Caledonian Modular, which is an industry leader in MMC and one of only five contractors authorised for MMC1 Lot 1 projects, which exceed 6,000 sq m. A2O was appointed to carry out detailed design of the timber cladding and advise on methodology for installing the maximum amount of cladding on modules assembled off site in its Newark factory. The remaining cladding was installed on site in Harlow.

This is the largest free school ever to be awarded under such a framework. The school accommodates an eight-form entry with a 500 place Sixth Form, Main Hall and Sports Hall available for community use.

The College was built with 198 large modules, each 18m x 3.5m. The modules come with factory-installed concrete floors, internal fit-out and external cladding, giving the classrooms a pre-manufactured value (PMV) of 91%.

In addition to being recognized for Best Use of a Timber Clad System, A20 was also shortlisted as a finalist for Best use of a Rainscreen System Using Glass or Ceramics at a project at Winchester Sport & Leisure Park. In terms of what this recognition means to the company, Tim Gray, Director, explains its importance: “It strengthens our relationships with key clients and supply chain partners and our role and commitment within the UK façade industry. It is also great for the excellent people within A2O to get some recognition for their good work.

“With regards to the Sir Frederick Gibberd College project itself, the main challenges were associated the tolerances between the modules on site. Our design and installation teams did a great job overcoming these issues and we have gained a lot of learning for future schemes.”

This latest accolade continues a proud tradition of award success that A2O has achieved over the past 20 years. Indeed, it had previously won another Façade Award in 2020 for Best Use of Brick Slip Cladding, underlining the tremendous levels of consistency it has instilled within the business since it was founded in 2002, when it began life offering site setup services to large construction sites.

As A2O progressed as a business, the cladding department was launched in 2007. Initially focusing on cladding within the retail sector, this arm of the business now specialises on large façade projects in the commercial, leisure, education and residential sectors across the south of England, with some package values being in excess of £5m. “Our regular clients tell us that they appreciate our values-based, design-led and quality-focused approach,” adds Tim. “We carry out our cladding design in-house, allowing for better control and service to our clients. We specialise in all of the major rainscreen cladding systems including SFS structure, aluminum, brick slips, timber, terracotta and GRC rainscreens. We’re also able to take on the full glazing package on some projects.”

As it looks to build on an another award-winning year, A2O is finding that the cladding market has become dominated by façade replacement projects. “Our focus for these projects is to ensure that the replacement cladding meets or exceeds the requirements of the revised Approved Document B,” says Tim. “Our LPS1531 certification, accredited by the BRE for the installation of passive fire protection, as well as the Bolster audit of all fire barrier locations, gives confidence to our clients and building occupants.”

Supporting A2O’s various activities across the Cladding and Site Setup businesses are 30 directly employed staff. Significant projects that they have been involved in recently include:

  • Percival Street – Full façade replacement in Sotech aluminium rainscreen;
  • West End Quay – Full façade replacement in Sotech aluminium rainscreen;
  • Middleton Hub – SFS, render and timber + Corium brick rainscreen;
  • Green School for Boys – SFS, Composite Panels, Gebrik and Tecu rainscreen;
  • Thurrock Civic Centre – SFS and Mechslip brick rainscreen;
  • Crawley Civic Offices – SFS, GRC and Mechslip rainscreen.

Despite such a strong order book and the award recognition it continues to receive, a number of challenges remain for A2O at the moment, as Tim outlines: “One of the biggest issues is the difficulty in planning work due to significant delays with funding approval for recladding projects. Another major headache involves entering into fixed price contracts with huge uncertainty about price increases for materials.”

Winchester Sport & Leisure Park

Regardless of these challenges, as it enters its 20th anniversary year, it is clear that A2O remains committed to the principles that have served it so well over the past two decades. “As we grow, we want to maintain and strengthen our values-based positive culture, challenging the stereotypes generally associated with the construction industry. As part of this, we want to strengthen our relationships with key supply partners and clients.

“From an internal perspective, meanwhile, we are developing an apprentice programme and pioneering an apprenticeship standard for cladding operatives to ensure we continue to have the right skills to keep building the company. As part of this we are continuing to demonstrate Innovation in MMC (Modern Methods of Construction) by developing an off-site product offering.”

Even with 20 years of operation under its belt, it is clear that A2O is in no mood to get complacent and is instead committed to achieving even greater success in 2022 and beyond. Further award recognition certainly can’t be ruled out either.

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