CMYA Finalist

Employer: McAleer & Rushe

Project: Newgate Court Student Accommodation and Maldron Hotel Newcastle

The bigger the project, the bigger the problems; but then the greater the problems, the greater the triumph. On this two-client scheme to replace a shopping centre and hotel with a four-storey hotel and nine-storey student block, Mark McCormick has burnished his reputation by overcoming significant setbacks as well as multiple third-party issues on a daily basis.

There were metro tunnels running under the site and Mark had to maintain uninterrupted 24×7 access to an overground metro structure at the site entrance. He had to decommission five substations within the site boundary and commission two new ones. He had to comply with 13 party wall awards (seven of them for listed buildings), provide three fire escape routes for neighbouring properties through the site, and negotiate multiple oversailing licences for the cranes and the scaffolding.

Delays in the early stages were particularly problematic. They included the demolition phase overrunning by four months, and an archaeological investigation expected to last three days taking four weeks when 600-year-old antiquities were discovered. With both buildings being constructed at the same time and only one access point for deliveries, Mark revisited the programme and split the substructure and superstructure of the student building into separate blocks to progress the works while the hotel section was still being demolished.

Mark’s innovation was outstanding. By introducing more columns to the superstructure design, he slimmed down the slab, achieving savings from the reduced need for reinforcement and concrete. With the student entrance block directly above the metro tunnels, he gained immediate installation benefits and avoided an onerous design process with the metro operator by moving to a substructure raft slab rather than piling the area. His use of prefabricated bathroom pods for the student block delivered a factory finish and reduced labour and material wastage on site.

By lifting a mobile spider crane on to the newly poured slab to help build the reinforced concrete columns and walls, he speeded up the frame construction. And with restricted site access forcing him to use the tower crane to feed the other two cranes from the rear of the building, he had large openings designed into the external courtyard ground-floor slabs so deliveries could be brought in through the basement to the front of the building.

Ultimately, Mark finished 16 weeks ahead of the contract programme with the final sectional handover, delighting two repeat clients whose expectations of the project were already high.