CMYA Finalist

Employer: Farrans Construction

Project: East London Arts & Music Academy (ELAM)

The logistics, brownfield and technical obstacles on this three-storey music and digital arts academy just kept on coming for Declan Doherty.

Virtually every inch of this 2,300sqm site – which was 95% filled by the footprint of the 3,150sqm academy under construction – presented technical difficulties for Declan Doherty.

The perimeter of the landlocked scheme was hugged hard by Network Rail lines, a large residential block, the Blackwall tunnel and a footpath busy with commuters for the nearby station. Deliveries for the steel frame had to be scheduled weeks, sometimes months, in advance, requiring meticulous planning.

Previous industrial use of the site had left a legacy of contamination. Declan identified an innovative chemical injection system to destroy the groundwater contamination, not only eliminating a mass earth removal but also allowing piling works to commence immediately after the treatment.

When an undivertible cast-iron pumped sewer mains was found on site, which could have chewed up and spat out the piling programme, he struck a buildover agreement with the water company – just in time to stop the piling rig being pulled offsite for another job.

He dispensed with external scaffold in favour of MEWPs (slim enough to fit within the 1.8m from the edge of the building to the boundary wall) and cherrypickers. The £80,000 cost saving and additional edge protection more than justified the change. Craneage was a juggling trick. Declan vetoed a luffing crane in favour of a 200-tonne visiting mobile unit to avoid delay in negotiating oversail rights. And he shipped out the 40-tonne crawler crane that built the concrete frame to bring in a model that met Network Rail lifting approvals yet could still fitted through (just!) the site entrance.

All of which should not obscure his excellent treatment of the acoustic design challenge of the building. He equipped the ground-floor recording studios with isolation screeds, triple-stud acoustic partitions, skewed walls and detailed acoustic panelling, to mitigate traffic noise. Above it, he built a 500mm-deep transfer slab to support a structural steel frame for the performance hall.

Through visible leadership, attention to detail and knowledge sharing, Declan got the most out of his team. He brought in a high-quality project on budget and a week early.