Working as an integrated team in partnership with specialist HybriDfMA structural frame contractor PCE, Kier has brought together three precast manufacturers and six factories across the country to collaboratively deliver a total of 15,183 precast components for Wellingborough. Through a series of blog posts, we are showcasing each business’ unique expertise and perspective on the project.

Mike Nelson is commercial director at Bison Precast, part of Forterra. Here, he talks about the business’s latest project with Kier and how, in its centenary year, it is at the forefront of the evolution of offsite manufacture.

“We were delighted when we secured the substantial prison project at Wellingborough. The scheme will see the creation of a 1,680-place category C resettlement prison, which will have seven house blocks with over 60,000m² of accommodation facilities and ancillary buildings, scheduled to be completed by autumn 2021.

At Bison Precast, we have a long-standing relationship with Kier and have supplied precast concrete for many different projects over the last few decades, including the pioneering custodial scheme at HMP Oakwood.

Our scope at Wellingborough is to supply a total of 4,920 bespoke components, including walls, solid slabs, columns, stairs and landings. We began casting at our Swadlincote factory in May and at our facility in Somercotes in June and will commenced delivery in September. The kit-of-parts approach for the project accelerates build times, which means careful planning is required to ensure we have sufficient product stockpiled for when construction begins. Typically on projects of this nature, we aim to have a third of the precast components manufactured and ready to go by day one of the delivery schedule.

Major schemes such as this require a lot of preparatory work. Because of the long manufacturing lead time, the design element has to be nailed down early. We take a joined-up approach, working collaboratively with other contractors to ensure the components we manufacture are designed and cast with the utmost precision. For example, all the conduits for electrical installation, underfloor heating mats and pipework, are accurately cast into the precast units, significantly reducing the requirement for follow-on trades on site.

Taking a DfMA approach lends itself perfectly to custodial construction where there is repetition of room sizes, as our moulds can be set up to run and run. This significantly reduces man hours on site, helps to lower health and safety risk and can achieve significant cost savings for large-scale projects such as the resettlement prison at Wellingborough.

This project has been particularly interesting for Bison Precast as it will also feature our new insulated, brick-faced sandwich panels, which will make up the external façade to one of the buildings on site. This new product line combines the precast concrete expertise we have at Bison Precast with Forterra’s brick manufacturing know-how. The brick-faced panels we are producing for this project will see Forterra’s Butterley Village Golden Thatch clay brick cast into precast concrete façade panels.

Because of the excellent working relationship we have built with Kier over the years, coupled with our experience of working with them and other precast manufacturers on similar large-scale schemes, we knew this project would be an important milestone in our development and production of the new brick-faced sandwich panels. I think it is fair to say that Kier is as pleased as we are about the tremendous possibilities of this product in achieving the appearance of a traditional brick finish within a DfMA approach."

To find out more about Bison Precast, visit:

Read the other blogs in the series