On this six-storey new build, Dominic Hattee demonstrated an exemplary ability to make the client relationship prosper.
The party wall challenges that emerged for the patterned brick cladding, which was crucial to programme delivery and project success, were solved through his hands-on ownership of the problem. He also found a way to reduce the building height to satisfy planning without demolishing an already cast core. His replacement of the intended slipform construction with twin wall delivered programme certainty.
The client relationship always matters, and when the client is a key customer for the contractor, then the importance of that relationship ratchets even further up. On this six-storey office block new build, Dominic Hattee demonstrated not only his awareness of this business truth, but also his ability to keep the client happy even when things go wrong.
The killer moment came as the project was approaching completion. Despite preconstruction quality assurance visits to the precast specialist’s factory, fine surface cracks were discovered in the finish of the facade’s frames, all of which had by now been installed. Unnoticeable during dry weather, the cracks had drawn in moisture during a spell of rain and were incontestably unacceptable.
Although the supplier insisted the units were compliant with a specification that made no reference to frequency of shrinkage cracks, Dominic made no attempt to take that line with a valued client. Suspecting that the cracking was exacerbated by the early striking of the concrete frames from their moulds, he told the manufacturer to produce another unit but not strike it until the curing temperature had cooled to the ambient room temperature. The resulting crack-free frame allowed him to negotiate a satisfactory way forward with the client: he replaced the facade units most seriously affected and applied a crack repair treatment to those that could not be removed.
That was a big win on a contract heavy with challenges. Dominic overcame the difficulties presented by an entirely landlocked site where four other properties (including a grade I-listed church) shared party walls.
He also came up with an answer to the vexed craneage question, where the planned single crane running either through the floors or the first-floor terrace would have delayed watertightness until the crane-down date. His solution was to relocate the crane to the top of the lift and stair core at the earliest opportunity.
As it became clear that slipforming the reinforced concrete core would mean the shuttering hogging all the crane hook time, significantly delaying wall construction, Dominic turned to prefabricated twin wall panels (consisting of two concrete slabs separated – and connected – by cast-in lattice girders) to gain programme certainty. He relentlessly drove the design of the twin wall – and of the M&E so builders work requirements could be cast in – to allow for procurement and just-in-time delivery in line with the critical path.
He overcame the party wall challenges for the patterned brick cladding when it emerged that a neighbouring building had to be itself extended and supported from the new wall. It was clear that the projected single skin of brickwork sitting on shelf support angles would not permit this. Dominic’s hands-on ownership of the problem ensured a way past the numerous complicating factors, not least of which was that the bricks for the original design had already been procured (on a significant lead-in) and delivered progressively. His solution of a double-skin load-bearing brickwork wall from the existing first-floor parapet was crucial to programme delivery and project success.
Told mid-construction that the architect’s drawings submitted to planning were incorrect and the building’s overall height would have to be reduced by 150mm, Dominic was faced with the disaster of having to demolish the already cast lift and stair cores. The disaster never happened because he moved the insulation from the top of the slab to the underside, and applied a liquid roofing system.