Paul Epton MCIOB
Robertson Construction Central East
Paul plundered all his years of experience to think outside the box and overcome ferocious logistics and a challenging construction methodology on this major city centre refurbishment project. His innovative access solutions included mast climbers with shrunken bases and a small but powerful truck-mounted crane. He kept his team positive, motivated and determined to succeed. His engineering insights saved time and money, and he delivered a project of outstanding quality.
About the Project
10 George Street, Edinburgh
On a city centre site with no laydown area or site compound, and public interfaces on all sides, Paul Epton had to find a way out of logistics hell for this major refurbishment project. It included the removal of the top floor of the existing office block to allow for the construction of two new floors, and the replacement of the old envelope.
Permitted to use a crane on the front elevation only on a Sunday by giving three months’ notice as the city’s luxury shopping street would have to be completely shut down as a result, Paul reserved the crane for the installation of steel on the top two floors, the transfer of plant to the roof, and the distribution of materials. The difficulties then got worse with the arrival of bad weather, with seven crane-days winded off. In full mitigation mode, Paul put a spider crane on the roof, and changed the sequencing to focus on strengthening the steel of the existing frame.
With mast climbers his access strategy on the rear elevation, the realisation that each climber’s base would hinder access to a road that had to remain open at all times during the Edinburgh festival came as a blow. Paul had bespoke bases made for three climbers, allowing them to sit on the single metre of land that belonged to the site, avoiding what would otherwise have been an eight-week delay.
He constructed the lift shaft early so he could run hoists in it until the lifts went in, and held off on the last bay of curtainwalling to allow materials and equipment to be stacked inside and waste to be taken out. And when the curtainwalling had to be finished off and the lift installation begin, he equipped the loading bay, which was too small for a standard crane, with a small truck-mounted crane that could lift a tonne the full height of the building.
The engineering strategy also benefited from Paul’s innovation. He realised that he could increase the floor area by replacing the brick and block fire protection on the building’s existing steel columns with a fire-resistant board. The delighted client gained 122sqm of net lettable area – and a significant potential uplift in rental income – as a result.
His querying of the steel strengthening works focused on assumptions that had been made about the likely size of the hitherto inaccessible brick-clad columns. Once on site in an empty building, Paul cut into the lower-level encasements and confirmed his guess that heavier column sections had been used on the lower storeys. The resulting reduction in the amount of steel strengthening that was needed saved eight weeks, minimised hot works and generated financial savings.
Paul’s review of the beam works also revealed that the welding required for adding strengthening plates to all beams on the fourth and fifth floors could be avoided by bolting on folded plate sections to the webs of the beams. As with his column strengthening change, this move reduced programme, costs and risk.