CMYA Finalist

Employer: Willmott Dixon Construction

Project: Romford Leisure Centre

On an uncomfortably constrained site for a new-build leisure centre, Simon Cook’s spot-on logistics planning was the key to meeting programme and budget.

Since it is thought that only one ice rink has ever been built above a swimming pool in the UK (and the rest of the world put together adds only one more to the total), you would imagine that the technical challenge involved would be the defining feature of Simon Cook’s leisure centre project. It wasn’t. The real quandary came with the logistics.

Not only was the site – a derelict car park in a back street – relatively small, it was also distinctly constrained. Bounded by roads, it had busy bus routes on two sides and another construction site on the third. A tiny service yard with shared access was the only way to accommodate deliveries and material movements.

The ice rink logistics posed obvious difficulties. Instead of being stored outside the building and fed in at ground-floor level as needed, materials (including 400 cubic metres of insulation, 2,500sqm of ceiling, 22km of refrigeration pipework and 500 tonnes of concrete) had to be lifted to a loading bay 16m above ground and manually brought into the building.

Simon’s deliveries planning had to be absolutely right. If not, traffic jams would form out to the ring road within minutes, holding up further deliveries and potentially crippling the site programme for days. His logistics planning was accordingly careful and meticulous, involving a dedicated manager, just-in-time deliveries, an off-site haulage centre for bulk loads and the strictest of booking systems.

It was only because Simon made the logistics – somehow – work that he could get to grips with the huge engineering challenge of building the ice rink suspended above the pools. Why so difficult? While the construction complexity was significant in its own right, the added factor of naturally rising warm moist air from the pool and naturally falling cold air from the rink created a critical risk for the interface between these two areas. Simon undertook condensation analysis to ensure correct sealing and separation, and set an air leakage regime of exceptional rigour.

Nor was it these undoubted triumphs alone that captivated the client. Simon dealt ably with the cladding specialist going into liquidation six weeks before the facade works began on site, and changed blockwork to plasterboard partitions to overcome the productivity drag imposed by the tight site. Even more impressive, his proposal to use opaque polycarbonate windows rather than glass simplified and held down the expense of the facade while allowing light into the building without creating glare on the water or the ice, which would have ruined visibility for spectators and lifeguards.