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Jonathan Roberts MCIOB

VINCI Construction UK

On this project to enclose an open-air mall courtyard with a glazed barrel roof and add a mezzanine floor, Jonathan hit all the buttons for professionalism, diplomacy, innovation and anticipation. The lashings of gold leaf, abundance of marble statuary and mural paintings galore demonstrated his fine grasp of intricate design details. His technical insight delivered such complex structural works as the installation of 200kg steel columns to support the roof above a live shopping centre.

About the Project

Barton Square, Trafford Centre, Manchester

Client: Intu

Contract: JCT D&B

Value: £56m

Decadence doesn’t always come easy. Jonathan Roberts’s enclosure of the open-air courtyard at a massive existing shopping mall saw him incorporate gold-leaf columns and cornices, ornate statues, bronze busts, live palm trees, marble flooring, and hand-painted murals at roof level.

The structural challenge was immense. He built two identical glazed barrel roofs supported by 36m-long curved steel rafters and linked by a dome. And he ended up designing four bespoke gantries to lift 252 tonnes of double-glazed glass (1,888 pieces in all) from the ground into their roof position to avoid placing tower cranes in the courtyard.

Yet Jonathan’s biggest challenge wasn’t structural at all. That said, drilling breakout holes through concrete to locate the existing steel frame so that 84 stub columns, each weighing 200kg, could be installed to support the new roof (and connecting it to four existing buildings) was no piece of cake. The real potentially contract-souring issue, though, was the need for the mall’s shops and sea life centre to remain fully operational throughout the build.

Jonathan put extensive measures in place to ensure the safety of the public and keep the mall open for business. He engaged in detailed, careful and round-the-clock planning to choose the most appropriate methodology and delineate well-lit pedestrian routes with clear signage.

Most important of all, he scheduled the major structural works – drilling, constructing the floors, erecting the steel, fitting the glazing – during the night. Every morning ahead of the mall opening, a 90-minute clean-up of the entire site left everything ready for retail to continue unimpeded. Material deliveries were also limited to off-peak times.

Just to add to the exotic feel of the project, the sea life centre’s giant Japanese spider crabs, sharks, octopuses, stingrays and several thousand other marine creatures had to remain safe and undisturbed. Jonathan set up a simulation of the creatures’ tank locations, installed sensors and carried out sample project activities such as drilling into steel and breaking open concrete. Once the effect of the noise and vibration levels on the creatures had been independently assessed as acceptable, he brought in marine experts to undertake 24/7 monitoring of the wildlife during the build.

Not surprisingly, the client rates Jonathan’s professionalism, diplomacy, consistency, innovation and anticipation as key to the success of this project.