It was all going so well on Louis Whittington’s fire station project – and then suddenly it wasn’t. With the project ground risk deemed low following earlier surveys and investigations of this former car park and public park, the discovery of a massive concrete slab and a large void 400mm below the tarmac at the start of the reduce-dig excavation came as an unpleasant shock for everyone. Located within the building footprint, what ultimately turned out to be an air raid shelter for a former school promised nothing but disruption and delay.
In this challenging scenario, Louis showed his management qualities. He immediately shifted the groundworks effort to another part of the site, and had the shelter and its 2.5m-tall concrete walls entirely removed within a fortnight of its discovery. It was a response that ensured no extra supply chain costs and, through his resequencing of the foundation works and steel frame erection, only minimal impact on the overall programme.
This forceful leadership was reprised repeatedly throughout the project. Louis proposed an alternative suspended slab design to overcome unexpectedly poor ground conditions, resolving significant design challenges and minimising the added budget burden. Likewise, he introduced sheet piling to deal with issues raised by contaminated ground.
He dealt with complaints about late installation of the steel staircases on a previous fire station project in Kent by ditching the powder-coated finish (fear of subsequent damage had deterred the contractor from putting them in promptly). Installed with the steel frame, they were then painted in the final stages. And he instigated 3D mapping to create an immersive walkthrough of the station. Via a virtual reality headset, the client could tour the new fire station without physically visiting the site.
Louis overcame 13 weeks in total of delay in the ground to achieve not only the original project completion date but also a snag-free handover. It was – as the delighted client confirms – something of a miracle.