Hedgehogs, newts, bats – there are various species that construction managers have to go out of their way to protect. Andy Beale, though, is one of the few who can put peregrine falcons on his CV. With a pair living in the clock tower of his refurb project, he had to programme the key reroofing works around the nesting season so as not to disturb them and their brood. Noisy power tools for the roofing works were eliminated, hi-viz clothing banned, and personnel kept to a minimum. All this plus putting a chick back in the nest that had fallen out.
Rather more mundanely, the big issue was money. Dealing with the legacy issues and defects that plagued the building was originally costed at £11m, but the client’s maximum budget was set at £7m. Andy recognised that value engineering was more appropriate in back-of-house areas and delivered the bulk of the client’s aspirations on that limited figure.
The high-impact areas (the council chamber, the main entrance and the crush hall) were intended to be revenue-generating and took most of the spend. The hidden items such as store cupboards were upgraded cost-effectively. Wiring and M&E were replaced only when necessary, and internal rainwater pipes were lined to avoid destroying parts of the building to get at them. Marble and stone flooring was skilfully repaired where possible, and sympathetically covered where not.
He even managed to give the client its ceremonial mayoral inauguration in the heart of the building amid the refurbishment works. He took out the chamber’s furniture and glass ceiling, replaced and reassembled the roof, then put all the furniture back in the tightest of time frames. Likewise the mayoral banquet six weeks before handover meant providing access through the works, along with provision for fireworks on the roof, a grand switching on of illuminations and even the installation of a giant disco ball.
But the toughest challenge of all was the removal of asbestos from the council chamber’s ceiling void – an issue that had proved a major sticking point for the previous contractor in phase 1 of the project, When an early client team inspection of Andy’s phase found traces of asbestos remaining in the treated ceiling void, relationships became strained. But the conclusion of a subsequent independent consultant that the work had been done to best practice standard and the patch of asbestos discovered of a small and all but impossible to catch size was a turning point. The client almost immediately awarded a further £30m contract for one job and a feasibility study for another to Willmott Dixon, while Andy subsequently completed this one on time, to budget and with zero defects.