CMYA Finalist

Employer: Willmott Dixon

Project: Queens Building New Wing, University of Bristol

Nigel Harris overcame the challenges of a congested site with limited access and huge time constraints to reduce a hillside and squeeze in a five-storey extension to an existing teaching building.

Some 25 years down the construction industry line from his first job as a labourer, Nigel Harris is now responsible for complex projects, big teams and prestigious clients. His latest scheme, for a five-storey academic block, shows why he has risen surely and steadily through the ranks.

It wasn’t just the way he overcame the challenges of a congested city centre site with limited access, time constraints because of term and funding dates, and a demanding client entitled to insist on the best. It was also his ability to keep the existing 1950s building in operation while he knocked it through, formed a new lift shaft and levelled a hillside to squeeze in the extension.

Boxed in on all sides, with protected trees, listed buildings, busy pedestrian routes, a neighbouring construction site, and a main artery road, the site required meticulous planning by Nigel. There was a gap of just five metres for bringing material onto site – and for removing significant amounts of waste for the basement and ground floor slab, which ran partly under the existing building and were cut into the bedrock of the hillside. A hoist could not be used and all materials had to be manhandled into and out of the site.

The extension required excavation below the foundation level of the existing building’s concrete frame. Nigel drilled a row of Odex piles alongside the existing building, inserted ground anchors between them, then welded whaling beams to the piles and attached them to the anchors for tensioning; a retaining wall for the new base was then formed around the whaling beams. Nigel’s confident engineering and careful sequencing were key to the successful delivery of this technically demanding scheme.