Cairnsfoot Special Needs Modular School


April 2015 marks the construction start for the new Cairnsfoot School in Brighton Le Sands, Sydney, for the Department of Education and Communities. Its significance is that about 80% of the buildings will be constructed off site, prefabricated then transported for installation. The modular solution has been designed for an agile, safe delivery of componentry that will create an all through K to 12 special needs school serving the southern Sydney region.

Design Director, Andrew Duffin and Project Architect, Ewan Saunders created a central design idea around the Intersection of Shelter and Challenge. The Intersection Concept brings together an environment of age appropriate safe separation while balancing controlled interaction opportunities in the central shared social axis. Key to the design has been to create clarity of navigation and definition of play and outdoor space. An integrated landscape design supports the axial concept. Our landscape architecture team led by Andrew Leuchars ensured the intersection of built form with the natural outdoor environment. Safe outdoor play was developed through careful design of a bike track, trampoline, balance equipment and stimulating ground plane modulation. The cohesive design creates an environment which is safe, assuring, comfortable, navigable, and appropriately allows growth and development through controlled challenge.

The new Cairnsfoot School figures in the development of modular prefabricated design solutions that NBRS has been progressing from earlier research work completed in award winning Modupod, and the Duffy Primary School in Canberra. In response to Australia wide demographic pressure, NBRS believe the prefabricated modular solution can be a smart agile method of creating new responsive learning spaces.

The head contractors, Project Coordination, will make site preparation, while simultaneously, fabrication of the learning space modules will progress in the MBS manufacturing facility. After site adjustments, connecting services the modules and spaces will start to arrive, establishing 17 learning spaces, a library, a multipurpose hall, an indoor swimming pool, and administration facilities. The modular fabrication technique ensures precision quality control, embedded ESD, and a safe delivery method. The modules will arrive with interior finishes complete and service wires and plumbed ready for final connection and testing.

The NBRS team have created the best learning environment based around a stimulating and safe axial Intersection of Shelter and Challenge.


NBRS+PARTNERS is a people focused, research based studio that aims to enrich lives. By developing creative design partnerships our portfolio spanning public and private sectors exhibit an understanding of the people whose lives will be affected. Above all NBRS seeks to design environments that will have positive life changing affect. Architecture is the cornerstone of NBRS+PARTNERS global interdisciplinary design practice with expertise in Architecture, Heritage, Interiors, Urban Planning, Landscape Architecture, ESD and Research. Since 1968, NBRS has developed a research led international architecture practice based in Sydney Australia. NBRS is recognised for its innovative, award-winning design excellence and comprehensive expertise. Our design-minded, 50 strong team’s unique focus on creative partnerships helps to realise solutions, with extraordinary results.

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