With a climb to the Mount Everest base camp and a walk across the Arctic Circle notched up in his spare time, Alan Bell clearly thrives on overcoming difficult environments.
While this 10,000sqm teaching and research block project was relatively compact, its requirement for a wide range and large quantity of specialist equipment was particularly exacting. It was Alan’s drive and determination that ensured the scheme was a success despite the potentially damaging failure of the M&E contractor to offer added value, proactivity or project engagement. He had to balance diplomacy and the iron fist to drive the services procurement and programme.
He broke the build down into small areas, always making sure the mechanical, electrical and plumbing works (which included replacing an existing plant room that serviced the campus) could be completely constructed and commissioned within each area. He used BIM to help co-ordinate the works and solve many of the installation problems presented by multiple layers of services in the ceiling voids.
Prefabrication gave him the tool to conquer the difficulties presented by the location of the new plant room – in a tight space between two existing buildings. The energy centre was built off site in 15 container-size modules, which were then craned into position over the existing buildings and bolted together. It saved time on the programme and reduced the logistical difficulties of material delivery and building in a confined space.
Another valuable prefabrication idea he proposed was for the 15 brick fins on the side of the building. Each 4m-high by 3m-wide fin was constructed off site as a brickwork panel, delivered in three pieces, lifted into position by crane and bolted together. Prefabrication provided ample off-site time and space to achieve the quality required for each panel before installation.
And with the client looking for a traditional build for the brickwork facade rather than precast, Alan took the manual laying of 200,000 handmade bespoke-size bricks off the critical path by using a structural framing system inner lining in the windows. He employed BAM’s own bricklayers as well as site managers with bricklaying backgrounds to achieve a finished product that went beyond architect and client expectations.