The Challenge:

The University of Essex STEM Centre would be positioned at the bottom of a valley surrounded by buildings built between the early 1960’s & early 1990’s. This presented a series of logistical challenges for the delivery team. The new building was also to be built against a 1960’s five storey concrete framed building, raised walkway bridge and concrete podium, and the podium needed to be part demolished to make room for the new construction.

Further to this the new building was going to be built into a 13m high slope and full unrestricted access was to be maintained to the main spine road which runs under the university and the podium with over 120 traffic movements every day. Main material access for the site was via a podium recess with an opening of 6m x 5m and a side access to the site which gave just enough room to reverse a lorry to allow loads to be picked up via a tower crane from the two locations.

The Solution:

Due to the nature of the landscape a number of pre-construction works needed to take place before building works could begin. To enable the reduced level digging to commence, sheet piles were driven into the landscape to provide support to the slope above, these were then used as permanent back shutters for the reinforced concrete basement walls and to provide final support for the existing slope. In addition, CFA piles, 600mm in diameter, were driven 20m into the ground to take the loading of the new concrete framed building. 

Once the building was nearing its completion, the previously demolished section of podium that was left, was filled in with steelwork, tray decking infilled with concrete to join the new building to the old podium and form the new main entrance. Internally break throughs were further created to join the new building to the old at three separate floor levels to provide better disabled access to the upper podium levels of the campus.

The Impact:

Trying to build a new concrete framed building within a very restricted area whilst in a live environment was challenging. The buildings surrounding the site housed laboratories where many experiments were carried out. Careful liaison had to be undertaken to help them programme their more sensitive experiments around the main construction, especially in Brain Science where noise and vibration were an issue for them. In addition to managing all the daily traffic movements of the university, we also had to incorporate the sites vehicle movements into this whilst trying to minimise disruption.

An extremely challenging project right the way from the off with design, logistics and programme issues but incredibly satisfying to see what the team produced as a final product.

" Early Design Management in consultation with the client was excellent and most likely enabled the projects progress from a difficult pre-construction period, and ongoing accommodation of the University of Essex’s logistics requests have been extremely appreciated by the Client. "
Steve Wetherall Senior Project Manager Arcadis

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