Delivering first class consideration on its Staffordshire University project – Thomas Vale Construction Ltd

Thomas Vale Construction Ltd’s Staffordshire University College Road Campus project in Stoke-on-Trent has been praised for its exceptional practice.

Staffordshire University commissioned Thomas Vale to create additional office and student spaces as a result of the closure of departments in a nearby campus. Its brief was also to refresh and modernise the existing spaces making them more attractive and pleasant, enhancing the overall student experience.

Outlining the work, Senior Project Manager, Steven Gregory said:

“The development comprises the refurbishment and extension of three existing buildings and the new build of a teaching block. The overall duration of the project was 61 weeks.

The buildings form part of a ‘live’ campus and are split via roads and other buildings. As a result of this, it has been paramount to consider the interfaces on all public-fronting areas and occupied spaces. This was to ensure that the works did not impact upon the activities carried out by staff and students.”

There were multiple sectional completion dates to allow the university to gradually move staff from other campuses and to decant ‘live’ areas and enable the refurbishment works to be undertaken.

Explaining some of the challenges faced during this project, Steven said:

“As the project was on a ‘live’ campus with neighbouring dwellings and shops, the most pertinent challenges involved the logistics of deliveries and the workforce to ensure that we didn’t cause a negative impact. We employed an online delivery system so that slots were allocated in advance. This meant that there was no bottle-necking of deliveries at gates or compounds, lessening the impact on traffic.”

To tackle the issue of car parking among the workforce, it was the responsibility of contractors to pay for parking at the nearby train station. However, within the first couple of weeks Steven and the team noticed that despite trying to enforce it, personnel would try and park on nearby roads to avoid paying for parking.

To remedy this, Thomas Vale rented a parcel of land from the council on the other side of the train station (about a five minute walk). This enabled site personnel to have secure parking and meant local roads were not congested; no complaints were received relating to parking within the local community.

There were also several environmental challenges which were solely related to noise. When the project was initially planned with the university in April and May of 2015, it was agreed that the Mellor building could not be occupied during the works due to the level of demolition works. However, when the works were due to commence, the university had some remote difficulties housing the staff who were situated in the lower floors of the building due to relocating their work provisions.

Explaining how this challenge was overcome, Steven said:

“We had to completely re-think the strategy, so instead of demolishing the walls and taking the materials down a hoist over a 12-week period, we introduced a scaffold drop-zone in an alcove that ran the entire height of the building. We also boarded up the windows in this alcove and lined the walls externally with insulation and board, to deaden the sound and reduce reverberation.”

Here are some examples of best practice initiatives carried out by Thomas Vale Construction Ltd:

  • The main areas were segregated with solid hoarding that was wrapped in specially designed metal panels that contained images specific to the topics studied at the university.
  • Viewing points: As part of the ‘graphics’, some of the images included TV screens. At set points around the hoarding, these TV screens were cut out and ‘Perspex’ sheets installed to create viewing points.
  • A dress code was set to ensure that PPE was always clean and at break times when nearby shops were being used, the dress code was no PPE.
  • Cameras were set up on the tallest building (Flaxman) taking time-lapse photos of the works.
  • Pedestrian crossing points were monitored hourly and appropriate signage was in place.
  • Floral hanging baskets were deployed in the secure compound around the accommodation. This was to promote a better space for the workforce.


  • Pre-start meetings were held at the university with communications sent asking for the local community to attend. At these meetings, boards displayed the site logistics and team organogram. This was a good forum for providing simple advice on the works and how long they would run for.
  • A designated employee was empowered as a community liaison representative for the local community to contact. This person also received training on dealing with the local community before being allocated as the champion, with specific in-house training on dealing with sensitive issues.
  • A Crisis Management Plan was provided to the university with contact details of all TVC/BYUK stakeholders, both inside and outside of normal operating hours, should an incident occur.
  • Free advertising for local businesses/shops on the site, along with offers for workforce; especially effective during the periods when the university was empty or during holidays.
  • A dedicated Logistics Manager was employed who had several members underneath him. This team ensured that all deliveries were booked in, marshaled effectively, and reduced the need or occasion for deliveries turning up unannounced and not being controlled in the live environment.
  • There was a nearby primary school where St John’s provided first aid training tailored to young children and they also practiced making 999 calls.
  • TVC (Thomas Vale Construction) and BYUK (Bouygues UK Ltd) set up a stand during a careers event to engage with students who were interested in construction and management roles within the industry.
  • The nearby school was undertaking renovations to their ‘mud kitchen’. TVC provided around £5000 of materials for them to use for their refurb. This was only timber, plasterboard, and paint, but nevertheless, was still good to be able to help them with their very tight budget.
  • Dog walking facility provided with letters sent out, and at set points of the day, managers were allowed the time to take neighbours’ dogs for walks in the local park. Although only used a handful of times, it also provided management with a deserved break away from the hustle and bustle of work, in order to reflect and relax. This also created another platform for engaging with the local community.
  • The development was opened up to the photography students, should they wish to use it for their projects.


  • An insect enclosure built up of pallets, ceramics, pipes, dirt/soil and grass was located in a segregated area of the site.
  • Bird boxes and bat boxes were introduced on the existing trees.
  • Wheeled spill kits were implemented that contained all the necessary kit for dealing with spills. These were inspected weekly and located strategically for movement when re-fuelling operations were underway.
  • Noise reduction hoardings were deployed in stairwells and lobbies, (where facing student and staff areas) to reduce noise and insulated netting to risers in occupied buildings, to reduce sound travel down service points.
  • Welfare facilities had rainwater recycling that feeds into a secondary cistern for toilet flushing.
  • Photovoltaic panels have been installed on the roof of the security office to power/contribute to the temporary lighting around the hoarding and compound.


  • Safety Action Groups monthly meetings were held with the supervisors and managers on site to discuss all topics of safety. A second group – the Operatives Safety Action Group – was also established without any management involved where the workforce could get their opinions and suggestions heard or relayed from the ‘coal face’ to the management team.
  • Alerts, Bulletins and Circulars were developed by the Corporate Safety Team. These were issued following a review of monthly trends or issues elsewhere in the business and were delivered to the entire workforce via the toolbox talks platform.
  • Black hat meetings were held each day at set times, the black hats (supervisors) meet on each building to discuss safety topics and safety coordination to ensure that everyone was made aware of activities and to avoid workforce clashes.
  • A notice board was displayed to remind all vehicles leaving site to look for cyclists and pedestrians as they pulled away from the gates.
  • Defibrillators were provided on site and letters sent to advise the local community that there was one available, with an external sign showing the location.


  • Wellbeing boards were deployed across the site and in the welfare section. These boards were kept up to date with monthly incentives from a business-wide strategy to align with NHS initiatives such as stress management month and National No Smoking Day.
  • All access and egress points throughout the entire project had glass cleaning stations, hand sanitation points, and an ear defender dispenser.
  • Monthly awards for the best performing operatives/members of the workforce were identified by the global team looking at safety performance. They were then given a certificate, had their photo taken and were rewarded with a voucher.
  • Free fruit was provided for the workforce every Monday.
  • A room with soft seating, magazines, a television and relaxing décor was provided in the welfare facilities.
  • Health screening mobile unit provided on site for set days where any person on site could be screened for blood pressure, lung capacity check, eye test and so on.

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