Willmott Dixon’s Teesside Central project praised for its safety innovation

Willmott Dixon Construction was praised for its safety innovation after implementing a magnetic sweeper which collected potentially damaging debris, such as nails and screws, during its refurbishment and remodelling of two Teesside University student buildings.

Detailing the project and the work involved, Senior Building Manager Richard Abrams said:

“Teesside Central is an existing student accommodation block which has recently been acquired by the client, Teesside University, from a private landlord. Block A is a 10-storey 1960s concrete frame building with 187-bed accommodation spread over the top nine floors. Originally constructed as an office block it was refurbished in 2006 and converted into student accommodation at the same time as Block B was constructed.”

The accommodation blocks

  • Block B is an 11-storey, 198-bed student accommodation block with occupied floors 1-10 made from a steel frame construction.
  • Block A works consisted of the strip out of existing floor finishes, fitted furniture and passenger lift, new decoration, flooring, fitted furniture and passenger lift. Following completion of Block A works, Block B was started.
  • The scope of works within Block B was similar to Block A, however a complex upgrade of fire protection was required. The internal face of the external walls along with the plasterboard ceilings were removed to provide access to the steel frame in order to fire-protect the structure.

Richard provides a few examples of how the project team incorporated the Scheme requirements into its working practices:

Work experience

  • We have taken on a number of work experience operatives ranging from general operatives to decorators, joiners and plasterers.
  • The work experience students came from various training organisations and are carrying out, or have completed an apprenticeship, or are still studying at college. We have provided over 741 hours of work experience to young persons under 19.

Supporting the homeless

  • Site staff and operatives were asked to bring any spare or unwanted Christmas gifts or food into the site office. These were then donated and handed to a homeless organisation within the local community.

British Heart Foundation

  • Part of this contract involved the strip out of bedroom furniture within Block A. Aware that many of the items for disposal were in nearly-new condition, the site team discussed potential options for their reuse with the client team.
  • Eventually it was agreed that the items in good condition should be donated to the British Heart Foundation (BHF). Following the donation of these items, the BHF contacted the site team to inform them that these materials which had initially been destined for a skip had instead raised £13,280 to help fund vital research.

The challenges

  • With the site being located in Middlesbrough Town centre, a public car park to the rear of the building and main roads the other three sides, access to and from the site was challenging due to the volume of pedestrian and vehicle traffic in the area. We employed a full time local gateman to manage all deliveries and visitors to site. The advantage of employing a local gateman was twofold; firstly his knowledge of the local area proved useful, and secondly it created employment for a previously unemployed individual.
  • External storage space was heavily restricted with only 50% of the building footprint able to be used as storage.
  • Following completion of block A, working hours were restricted due to students occupying the building. This and the limited storage space had to be taken into consideration when producing a construction programme.
  • The existing fire strategy for the occupants of Block A was to have a secondary egress route through Block B. This needed to be maintained throughout the project.  In order to maintain this egress route, Willmott Dixon installed a fire alarm break glass to the Block A side of the adjoining door and maglock connected to the fire alarm. Naturally this meant that the highest standards of housekeeping would need to be strictly adhered to at all times to ensure the safety of the students with no potential trip hazards throughout.

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