Jonathan Watkins created a big pool of trust on this new-build spa in the grounds of a luxury hotel. He spurned contractualism in favour of honest collaboration.
For this three-level new-build spa in the grounds of a legendary country house hotel, Jonathan Watkins could really have done with a giant-sized cloak of invisibility. That being unavailable outside the pages of a fantasy novel, he undertook a series of extraordinary measures to deliver the client’s top priority of guests remaining blissfully unaware of construction work going on.
The visual impact of a crane being considered too intrusive, Jonathan hit on the expedient of a tracked mobile crane with retractable jib that was lowered at the end of each day so that the crane would be down and away when guests checked in. Armed every week with a list of upcoming wedding dates, he had noisy works stopped and the crane jib lowered right before the bride arrived, re-erecting the crane and continuing work at a signal from the hotel events manager after the ceremony was over. The same respect was afforded to a regular stream of VIP helicopter arrivals.
Jonathan agreed that noisy works would be carried out only between the hours of 10am and 3pm, overcoming his initial programme concerns through careful planning. Since, for example, he wanted the 70-odd wagons a day shifting 25,000 tonnes of earth for the basement level to start work at 8am, while guests were still in bed just 50m away, he installed a tarmac through road so the wagons could drive onto site, be loaded with earth side on to the machine, and driven back off site and onto the tip without needing to use their reversing beepers.
Those are significant hoops for any construction manager to jump through, but Jonathan did so and still made this scheme work. His planning was superb. Needing to test the swimming pool structure for watertightness for a month – an impossible wait if he was to make progress on installing the beams to the roof above the pool, he scaffolded out of the pool; filling it with water with the scaffold still in place allowed the pool to be tested while the works above continued.
He constructed a bespoke tipping area near the hotel’s golf course so that the basement spoil could be machined into the existing landscape. Tarmac roads and turning circles were incorporated on site and at the tip so the earth could be held in reserve for future golf course layout extension and reshaping.