Heron Bros Ltd receives exceptional scores for its Forthriver Innovation Factory project

The £9m Innovation Factory in Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland, provides 55,000 square feet of flexible workspace set over four floors on the site of the former Mackie & Sons engineering factory.

The Innovation Factory will be a dynamic, flexible and entrepreneurial hub for start-up businesses and expanding firms specialising in innovation, research, development and other creative solutions. The floors are divided into a range of small and medium sized Grade A office workspaces, with associated support space.

Located three kilometres northwest of Belfast City Centre, the 52-week project was procured under a design and build contract. Externally the site was developed to provide ample car parking for the proposed new centre, along with drainage, fencing and hard and soft landscaped areas.

Explaining the works, Site Manager, Brian Magill said:

“The main works comprise of a complex foundation design, due to the brownfield ground conditions. The back of the site is piled and the front of the site is pad and ground beam foundations with deep trench fill. The ground floor slab is ground-bearing, supporting a steel frame structure and metal deck upper floors. The roof is pitch and is covered with a standing seam-insulated roof system with two large roof lights/atriums.

“The external façade comprises of a cavity wall construction with a red Belfast facing brick externally, to mirror the historical factor and mill usage of the site, and internal framing system. The curtain walling, windows and doors are all aluminium.”

What particular challenges have you faced in relation to the community, environment or the workforce on this project and how have you overcome these?

The Innovation Factory is located in a deprived area, characterised by religious diversity, with limited availability of shared or politically-neutral space. Unemployment is high in this area and investment is low, leading to a lot of community interest in the project. A ‘stakeholder and community engagement interests’ plan was developed at the project outset. Heron Bros met with local community representatives and provided an overview of the company, the project and programme, as well as community engagements planned by Heron Bros.

This proposal also outlined all stakeholders and our engagements with them. It was an evolving plan that developed throughout the project in partnership with key community groups, to incorporate how they wanted to be involved in the project. A close relationship was built with the local community groups and we provided drop-in surgeries, site visits and information sessions for all local interested parties, as well as quarterly newsletters and weekly updates on social media.

Work Smart Employability Campaign

To help reduce the high unemployment, Heron Bros piloted their Work Smart Employability Campaign on the Innovation Factory. This pioneering campaign seeks to support those who are most removed from the labour market into training and/or employment.

As part of our Work Smart Campaign, Heron Bros engaged with 1300 NEETS (Not in Education, Employment or Training), LTU (Long Term Unemployed) and new entrants and employment professionals, throughout the project term on the Innovation Factory alone.

The company invested 800 resource hours (approx. £14,000 in wages) and £300 of direct and benefit-in-kind financial support to contribute to the employment of those furthest removed from the labour market.

This resulted in the employment of:

  • 4 LTU or economically inactive job seekers
  • 14 new local opportunities within 10 miles of the construction site
  • 22 new opportunities
  • 20 apprentices
  • 2 industrial placements
  • 4 Training for Success candidates
  • 2 graduates
  • 2 on site work buddies/mentors

How do you feel the Scheme is improving the image of construction?

The CCS Code of Considerate Practice is very similar to Heron Bros’ own core values and how we deliver our projects. The CCS Code and Heron Bros Core Values provide a model of how to positively manage a construction site efficiently, with an awareness of environmental issues, and above all consideration to the local community and workforce.

The CCS provides excellent support to the construction sector and the Best Practice Hub. The recently implemented e-learning has provided a fantastic source of reference to becoming a more considerate constructor. Registration with CCS is quick and easy and provides Heron Bros with an industry-recognised certification of our corporate consideration.

You can find out how the team addressed the challenges of the project, as well as reading about Heron Bros Ltd’s many other examples of best practice by clicking on the sliders below:

  • To maintain the appearance of the surrounding roads and pavements, the new car park was programmed as early as possible to reduce on-site mud and dust leaving the site.
  • Enforcement of a strict dress code policy included dress, personal appearance and personal hygiene, to project a professional image both on and off site.
  • At project tender stage, a detailed Community Engagement Plan was developed at a local level with key community representatives.
  • A number of drop-in clinics were scheduled to answer questions on the project.
  • A Young Enterprise Masterclass at Belfast City Hall was supported by Heron Bros Ltd as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week.
  • ‘Where We Work’ posters highlighted any sensitive issues to staff and visitors and promoted respect for the local community. 
  • The carbon footprint was calculated for both this site and company-wide, with 79 tonnes of CO2 used in the build and 20 new trees were already planted out of a target of 79, in efforts to offset the carbon.
  • The method of driven piles was changed to trench-fill, to minimise disruption.
  • BITC Bio Diversity Charter was in place.
  • Biodiversity promotion leaflets were issued.
  • At the project outset, in partnership with the local crime prevention officer, a crime prevention plan was prepared and implemented for safety in design, construction and operation of the innovation centre.
  • Competitive league scoring tables with other sites on safety.
  • The appointment of a project skills co-ordinator to implement a project-specific employment and skills plan.
  • Work Smart employability campaign (company-wide) which has resulted in a substantial contribution towards encouraging new people into the industry.
  • Financial advice on how to make a will was delivered by a solicitor on site.

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