Down High School

The Education Authority committed £33 million to the construction of a new school, Down High School, catering for up to 950 pupils on the outskirts of Downpatrick. The elevated position provided a view over an AONB down to the Mournes and a need for retaining structures.


Downpatrick, Co. Down, Northern Ireland


McAdam Design


Concrete Crib, Modular Block & Greenface

Identifying Retaining Wall Needs

The principal designer McAdam Design envisaged Concrete Crib retaining walls for the Down High School site as a contractor designed item. The main contractor, Graham, and their design team based in Glasgow employed local outside engineering consultants. A complicated iterative process began with the intention of removing the need for piled foundations.

A specialist Geotechnical firm, Causeway Geotech, examined allowable foundation bearing pressures with the use of plate tests and shear vane tests. In their global stability analysis Causeway identified a problem with the pressure on an existing old retaining wall at one of the locations. Retain proposed a change from the exemplar layout to the use of “Greenface”, a reinforced soil solution, at one of the locations. Ultimately the slope was re-graded employing soil nailing. McAdam Design then approved the final solution before construction began.

The best system for the location: Concrete Crib remained at one location with the more suitable Greenface and modular block replacing the exemplar design elsewhere.

Aesthetics: The different appearance of each system suited their final locations. Greenface, in particular, provided a soft vegetated look near to the existing tree line.

Cost: Detailed analysis of the ground conditions involved the successful interaction of the 5 professional design teams. The removal of the initially required piled foundations provided significant cost savings.

How Retain Contributed

Retain proposed different retaining wall options from their portfolio of solutions and were able to provide specifications for the specialist geotechnical consultants.

Our 30 years experience: meant Retain could provide the most appropriate solution for the different locations.

Full Cycle involvement: Retain’s involvement at an early stage ensured the approval process reached a successful conclusion.

Professionally Indemnified Design: provided confidence to the various design teams.

Accurate estimating: ensured that design changes could be evaluated for cost saving throughout the process.

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