CMYA Finalist

Employer: Kier Construction

Project: Neville & Sheraton House, Ustinov College, Durham

On Noel Carson’s student accommodation project it all came down, as it so often does, to time and money. An unmissable deadline was imposed by the onset of the new academic year, while the financial screws were tight from the off when the costed scheme came in £2m above the budget.

On Noel Carson’s student accommodation project it all came down, as it so often does, to time and money. An unmissable deadline was imposed by the onset of the new academic year, while the financial screws were tight from the off when the costed scheme came in £2m above the budget.

Confident that he could identify alternatives and design changes that would bring significant savings without lessening the scheme, Noel spent the 18-week preconstruction period in value engineering. While the ground conditions rendered the site susceptible to heave, the original plan for deep strip foundations and suspended slab with a heave-protection substructure of compressible material was both expensive and time-consuming. Noel replaced it with a piled raft system that provided heave protection through a void.

Rather than installing new staircases at the rear of the building being refurbished, he confirmed the existing stairs were in good condition and then retained them. He also substituted materials for cheaper alternatives with a similar appearance. The zinc cladding was replaced by rainscreen boarding with a zinc-like finish, the aluminium-framed windows were replaced by aluminium-faced wooden frames, brick cladding was replaced with traditional brickwork.

To speed up construction, Noel built the superstructure in light-gauge steel frame, and had bathroom pods lifted into position as the works progressed.

When, late on in construction, the client struck a lease agreement for the development with Durham University, Noel delivered the variations needed for the deal to go through in the original time frame. Within a month he had engaged the design team and supply chain so successfully that he had costed, designed and programmed a new reception, bar recreation area extension, gym and admin service area to meet the same planned handover date.

Indeed, his delivery of a fully finished sample cluster of five bedrooms five months ahead of practical completion – rather than a single bedroom three months ahead – helped the client broker the deal in the first place. Elated with Noel’s performance, the client subsequently entered into negotiations with Kier for similar projects in Manchester and Sheffield.