CMYA Finalist

Employer: Morgan Sindall

Project: Collaberative Teaching Laboratory, University of Birmingham

Festooned with design and architectural awards, this three-storey lab owes its quality laurels to Tony Fitzgerald’s impressive project leadership, seven-days-a-week commitment and 40 years of experience.

Consider the wet lab that juts out from the rest of the building at the rear. Installing the gold shingles that encase it required insightful setting out. The folded corner shingles always maintain a sharp line because Tony kept control of the creep to ensure the corner tiles remained full tiles. Amid the great team debate on the advantages of starting the shingling installation in one corner and working around the building in one direction, Tony’s insistence on developing the design so all elevations could be worked on simultaneously and the corners added last prevented the duration of the work overwhelming the programme.

His buildability logic was impeccable. He was instrumental in changing the foundation from contiguous piling, to protect the adjacent foul and storm drainage. He changed the raft slab to reinforced ground beams so the steel frame could start earlier. He reduced the two retaining walls to one to give the client more storage space in the lower ground floor. And he value-engineered the parametric windows to timber frame.

Identifying the potential airtightness and weatherproofing problems posed by a 50mm movement joint running through the atrium up the elevations and across the roof, he had it designed out. He removed the watertightness risk of the structural framing system for the plant room coming directly off the roof slab by introducing blockwork upstands for the framing to sit on.

On a very tight site bordered by a main pedestrian thoroughfare, a busy road, and two existing university buildings, Tony delivered a snag-free building on time – the key driver for the project – without sacrificing quality or budget.