Lockdown learning has given us lessons for the future

Much has been said of the challenges that 2020 posed, but with a new year underway it’s important to not let the many examples of our industry’s resilience, innovation and passion go unrecognised.

One of the areas that has been most drastically affected due to COVID-19 is one which will have the most significant impact on the future of our industry – encouraging more young people into construction.

Wates Construction Framework Director, Steve Spilsbury reflects on the success of the Learning in Lockdown schemes to ensure school pupils still access vital introduction to the industry despite the absence of physical events.

The skills shortage that currently exists in our sector is well documented, with firms relying on conducting school visits, site tours, open days and careers talks to help highlight the diverse opportunities our sector holds. However with schools closing their doors for most of last year, lessons being delivered via laptop and a shutdown on all visitors to sites, our usual armoury of tactics has had to adapt, and like many of our working practices in 2020 – go digital.

Learning in Lockdown

Leading the way has been the Learning in Lockdown initiative, created and delivered by Class of Your Own, Learn Live, The Engineering Development Trust, and SCAPE the leading public procurement authority with which we are proud to work as a framework partner.

The programme involved a week-long virtual work experience event for Year 10 students, challenging them to design a pavillion in the desert which could promote sustainable and eco-friendly living to the residents nearby. The response to this challenge was fantastic; over 30,000 pupils registered an interest and over 300 schools took part, supported by 159 experts from 32 organisations.

Along with our fellow SCAPE framework partners, we advised students and judged the three award categories Best Design, Great Achievement, and Best Written Report which I had the pleasure of judging myself. The level of detail, creativity and understanding that the pupils demonstrated in their reports meant that choosing a winner was tough. Since then I have held mentoring sessions for the winner and runner up, and they truly are a credit to their families and their schools.

Collaborative creativity

The success of this initiative, and witnessing the sheer talent and ingenuity of the students who took part, has given me a great deal of hope for the future of our industry and reaffirmed what I already knew we work best when we work together.

Learning in Lockdown was able to succeed and reach so many students because of the complete collaboration between the multiple contractors, consultants, partners and schools. Even if 2021 does see us able to return to some sort of normality, reaching 300 schools in one week individually would be an impossible task, but we have proved that by combining our expertise and innovation it can be done.

We need to keep this momentum going. While we hope to meet students in person and bring them back onto site in the future, initiatives like Learning in Lockdown must be continued and expanded on year after year, to allow us to reach and educate as many young people as possible.

This brilliant programme has shown us that we can help shape the future of our industry through collaboration, in the same way that we use the principle to shape and deliver our complex projects across the country. I’m incredibly proud to have supported it and look forward to working with SCAPE and my fellow construction peers to deliver more in the future.

For more information on Learning in Lockdown, please visit here: https://www.scape.co.uk/learning-in-lockdown

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Construction completes at £22m Loughborough Commercial Park

National contractor Wates Construction and property, construction and infrastructure consultancy, Perfect Circle have jointly completed £22m worth of works at the Loughborough University Science Enterprise Park (LUSEP) for Leicestershire County Council (LCC).

Situated off Holywell Way in Loughborough, LUSEP is a new build commercial development providing 80,000 sq. m. of Category A office space spread over three floors. The space will see a revenue of £1.6m a year to support vital front-line county council services.

Built on land owned by Loughborough University, LUSEP forms part of Leicestershire County Council’s ambitions to develop its estate to help provide long-term financial benefits for the region. The site has already found a tenant, with global business software firm, The Access Group, leasing it for its new UK headquarters.

Wates completed all building, mechanical and electrical works, with the design meeting a BREEAM rating of Very Good. Extensive planning and ground design works were also carried out in collaboration with the client and their team to ensure a cost effective solution on the previously sloped site. All were carried out with due consideration of the existing ecology and environmental needs of the site, including the installation of a bat fence.

Perfect Circle delivered consultancy in the early stages of design, as well as project management, quantity surveying, and principle designer services. The consultancy also provided mechanical and engineering, civils and structures support.

Wates and Perfect Circle were both appointed via SCAPE, the UK’s leading public sector procurement authority. The SCAPE Construction and SCAPE Consultancy frameworks are designed to accelerate delivery and facilitate collaboration across the project, whilst driving local economic impact, as well as time and cost savings for LCC.

The Wates team also worked closely with the client and its supply chain to ensure the project delivered considerable benefits for the community, with £56,000 spent with local Social Enterprises, 23 apprenticeships supported and 33 new jobs created for local tradespeople.

Construction started on site at LUSEP in February 2019, with the team handing over in November 2020.

John Carlin, regional managing director for the Midlands at Wates Construction, said:

“While the current economic climate and rise of homeworking has caused some to doubt the future of commercial property, LUSEP’s completion is a positive sign for the wider market, and it remains a focus for our business in the Midlands.

“As with any of our projects procured via SCAPE, we worked in tandem with our client to ensure this site delivered exactly what was needed – a modern, sustainable office building which would benefit the council commercially in the long-term, built via considerate methods which would be sympathetic with the environment and support the community during its construction and beyond. This is reflected in our 9.5/10 client satisfaction score, and is a testament to our teams’ dedication to collaboration and innovative delivery.”

Victoria Brambini, managing director at Perfect Circle, said:

“We’re delighted to see such a successful technology firm taking up their new premises in the county. The engagement of Perfect Circle at the earliest stage of planning and design, right through into project and cost management of the construction and fit-out, allowed the county council and Loughborough University to de-risk the project and deliver better outcomes – as is the aim with all SCAPE projects.”

Nick Rushton, Leader of Leicestershire County Council said:

“This underlines the strength of Leicestershire as a great place to do business as well as the county council’s place at the forefront of the drive for growth and innovation. It also cements Loughborough’s growing global reputation as a business and innovation centre and shows that Leicestershire is truly open for business.

“Our approach of building new workspaces is creating jobs and boosting the economy, which is vital in securing a good recovery from the COVID pandemic, and crucially, it means we can invest more into services such as maintaining our roads and supporting vulnerable people.”

Mark Robinson, group chief executive at SCAPE, said:

“As businesses continue to prepare for a return to office-based working, it’s encouraging to see ambitious construction projects like LUSEP take shape. Commercial property plays an important role in supporting local regeneration and economic growth as the UK continues its path to recovery.

“The high calibre of work delivered is testament to the quality of the teams at Wates and Perfect Circle and will ultimately deliver exceptional value for Leicestershire County Council and the communities it serves. I wish Access Group every success for the future, as it relocates it UK headquarters to the new site.”

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£58.5 million state-of-the-art Nottingham College City Hub completes

National contractor Wates Construction has completed works at Nottingham College City Hub, a landmark new campus for the College providing space for 2,000 students and 200 staff, offering local people a state-of-the-art learning experience and future employment opportunities.

The campus will welcome students and be fully operational from January, but this week marks the handover of the £58.5 million building from Wates to the College. It complements the College’s existing campus portfolio and forms part of a Council-run scheme to regenerate this area and boost the city’s economy.

Nottingham College City Hub is the first project completed in the region by Wates through Major Works UK, part of the Scape National Construction framework, and is the result of a partnership between Nottingham College, Nottingham City Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

The new campus will offer a broad curriculum for the College including performance, media and business, complete with amenities for the community to enjoy including a restaurant, café and performing arts centre.

Throughout the build contractor Wates Construction has created a host of employment and training opportunities of young people as well as supporting the city’s business and charitable organisations.

Since starting work onsite in mid-2018, Wates has worked with 10 social enterprises, including Recycling Lives, Nuneaton Signs Ltd and Radiant Cleaners Ltd, and ensured that 60 per cent of project budget was spent within 40 miles of the site. 60 per cent of the supply chain were local SMEs and 143 new jobs have been created.

Carole Thorogood, Chair of Governors at Nottingham College, said:

“I am delighted to take possession of the City Hub on behalf of Nottingham College and I would like to thank all of those who have worked so hard to make this day happen in such difficult times.

“The building is spectacular both inside and out and I know that staff and students can’t wait to start using it. This is a major investment in education and skills in Nottingham by the College, the Local Enterprise Partnership and the City Council. These state-of-the-art teaching facilities will inspire generations of students and equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to meet the needs of local, national and international employers helping them and their City to thrive.

“The full economic impact of the coronavirus is still to be felt. But education and this college will be vital to rebuilding the economy and people’s livelihoods by providing excellence in education and a route to exceptional opportunities for the City and its people.”

John Carlin, Wates Construction Midlands MD added that the project had brought about a huge amount of learning and development opportunities for young people in the area:

“This has been such a memorable project for us in large part due to the positive impact it’s left on the city’s stars of tomorrow. We’ve been proud to provide permanent jobs to four school leavers, including two graduates from Nottingham College, created 29 apprenticeships and carried out 65 educational visits, as well as delivering 18 lectures on the Built Environment at the College itself.

“Thanks to the hard work of Project Director Adam Cannon and his team we’re thrilled with the end result and can’t want to see students experience the new campus in the New Year.”

Sajeeda Rose, D2N2 LEP Chief Executive, said:

“We are delighted to see the Nottingham City Hub is one step closer to welcoming students through its doors. D2N2 is proud to have invested £30million of Local Growth Funding into the construction of this landmark building.

“The Nottingham City Hub will change the face of skills provision in our area, playing a key part in the pathway towards rebuilding and growing our economy by creating career paths and providing our businesses with the talent they need to thrive and grow.”

Mark Robinson, chief executive at Nottingham-headquartered public sector procurement authority Scape Group, said:

“Further Education has a huge role to play in the future economic resilience of the UK’s, not just in terms of developing skills where we need them but also in sustained and vital infrastructure investment.

“Further Education is a key focus for government spending this year, and many colleges will be able to learn from the outstanding example set by Nottingham College City Hub. With the right partners involved, colleges can seize the opportunity to rapidly deliver state-of-the-art learning environments for the future.”

Councillor David Mellen, Leader of Nottingham City Council, said:

“It was a little over a year ago I visited the City Hub for its topping out ceremony, and given the constraints contractors have worked under during the COVID pandemic, to deliver it in good time is an impressive achievement.

“We are very pleased to see the new City Hub handed over, one of the first buildings in the Southside area to begin its transformation from brownfield site to a fantastic new venue for Nottingham’s students. I’m particularly pleased that it is sympathetic to the surrounding area while adding a modern façade to the cityscape.

“I would like to thank Wates construction for being so considerate to our residents on Cliff Road and the Lace Market in their construction of the City Hub and our partners at Nottingham College. Once the college is able to welcome new students safely, I have no doubt they will enjoy learning in such an excellent facility.”

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Wates Construction delivers landmark £33m leisure centre for Windsor & Maidenhead Council

National contractor Wates Construction has completed works at Braywick Leisure Centre, a major leisure and community hub for Windsor and Maidenhead Council, marking the first project delivered for Wates via the Major Works – UK framework, part of the Scape National Construction framework.

The £33m facility at Braywick Park was built to replace the Council’s aging Magnet Leisure Centre, and features a 10-lane swimming pool, larger training and splash pools, a 200-station gym, four squash courts, sports hall, café, all-weather football pitch and 240 car parking spaces.

Improved sustainability was vital for the Council, and as well as being delivered as a carbon neutral project, the centre has been designed to use 70 per cent less energy than its predecessor.

Wates worked closely with architect Burke Richards and engineering consultants Hoare Lee to meet this target, with rainwater collected, stored and redirected to flush waste systems, LED lighting used throughout, and extra insulation deployed to reduce heating requirements. A collaborative culture was established from the very beginning between all partners, particularly with regard to the complex building services needed for plumbing and heating a large leisure build.

Community engagement was sought at every opportunity and, as well as investing £13k into supporting social enterprises, tree planting and gardening events, several initiatives to educate and inspire were delivered.

The project team arranged several site visits, networking events and assemblies for local schools as well as 13 work experience placements for students. Through Wates’ Building Futures programme, 17 jobseekers passed their CSCS test, with one employed as a Gateman since November 2018.

Work initially started on the project in July 2018 and was officially handed over as scheduled in September, despite challenges posed by Covid-19.

Alec Jackman, business unit director for the Southern Home Counties at Wates Construction, said:

“Regenerating leisure hubs like this is essential to supporting healthy, sustainable communities, and every part of the Braywick Park site has been designed with the people who’ll be using it in mind. We hope it will become a real cornerstone of community in Maidenhead, leaving a lasting legacy for years to come.

“We are currently working on several Scape projects across the country, and we hope this project will be held up as an example of how supportive this procurement framework can be. By working in close partnership with the council, our delivery partners, a local supply chain and the wider community, we could overcome any obstacles easily, and I’d like to thank everyone who worked on this landmark project and made it such a success.”

Mark Robinson, Scape Group chief executive, said:

“The last six months have created challenges that would’ve made it easy for a project as ambitious as this to lose sight of its sustainability goals. However, it is to the immense credit of Wates and the council that they have gone above and beyond to ensure that this investment will maximise its impact across the local community in terms of physical, social and environmental health.

“Sustainability is becoming more important than ever for projects delivered by local authorities, and it’s our intention that our frameworks will continue to accelerate their delivery while becoming carbon-neutral as standard by 2028.”

Councillor Sayonara Luxton, Mayor of the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead, said:

“I am looking forward to accepting the keys to the building and seeing the transformation of the site. I am sure many residents will be looking forward to using this fantastic facility in the future and the many wonderful community spaces within the building.”

Braywick is the latest completion for Wates in the leisure sector, with other major projects currently being built including Sandwell Aquatics Centre and Halton Leisure Centre in Widnes, both also procured via Major Works – UK, part of the Scape National Construction framework.

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Milestone reached at £73 million aquatics hub

National contractor Wates Construction has reached a significant milestone in the construction of Sandwell Aquatics Centre, in Smethwick.

Structural steelwork has now begun at the £73m state-of-the-art leisure facility with the first three roof trusses and main frame now erected, giving scale to the site and its facilities within. By the end of the year, 14 trusses will have been installed in total, each spanning 75m and weighing around 30 tonnes.

It marks the first stage of the centre taking form above-ground, with the Wates team spending the summer months carefully creating the 50m Olympic-sized pool – the only one of its size in the Midlands – as well as a 25m diving pool and community swimming pool. Some 3,000m3 of concrete were used in the pools’ creation, which had to be carefully poured to an accuracy of mere millimetres to comply with Olympic standards.

With procurement being accelerated and performance managed through Scape – the UK’s leading public procurement authority – this state-of-the-art facility will create a lasting legacy for community health and wellbeing, with its three pools and seats for up to 1,000 spectators.

Other facilities at the aquatics centre will include three activity studios, two 4-court sports halls, a 108-station fitness suite with a 25-station ladies-only gym, dry diving facilities, an indoor cycling studio, a new football pitch, a café, and changing facilities including a sauna and steam room. Externally, a new urban park will feature a children’s play area.

With the frame in place, the team will now start work creating the walls and roof of the building, as well as completing the installation of the 10m dive tower before Christmas.

Construction started on site in September 2019, with Wates working closely with Sandwell Council and its supply chain to ensure work continued safely on site during the national lockdown earlier this year. The contractor collaborated with all delivery partners to ensure new health and safety measures and social distancing guidelines were put in place quickly, meaning the project is still on schedule.

The project is set to complete in spring 2022 and will open to the public in the spring of 2023.

John Carlin, regional managing director for the Midlands at Wates Construction, said:

“We’ve been on site for a year now, building the pools and laying all the groundwork, but with the steel framework in place we are really starting to demonstrate the sheer size of this ambitious, exciting build. It is a true landmark for the region and will offer so many benefits to the community in the local area and far beyond.

“Sandwell Aquatics Centre represents an incredibly complex feat of design and engineering and, despite the external challenges of COVID-19, we’re right on track to deliver it on schedule. This is entirely due to the expertise, hard work and determination of everyone involved – our site teams, local apprentices, supply chain and Sandwell Council – and I look forward to the next milestone being reached.”

Councillor Maria Crompton, Deputy Leader of Sandwell Council, said:

“It is just amazing seeing the new aquatics centre come to life. The steel truss and frame has really added a sense of scale and you can visualise just how great this centre will be as a facility for local people.

“The construction of this new facility has already benefited local residents by giving them the opportunity to gain employment as apprentices on this major project. I want to thank everyone who has been working tirelessly to make sure we remain on track to deliver this world-class centre for our residents.”

Mark Robinson, group chief executive of Scape, said:

“Continued public investment of this nature is absolutely essential in helping the UK to build back better. The accelerated delivery of this world-class facility is a testament to the ambition of Sandwell Council, the strength in the Wates team and the talent of the local supply chain, coming together to deliver something really special.

“Once complete, this new centre will play a key role in the community, championing sporting participation and wellbeing. I can’t wait to see Sandwell Council’s vision come to life.”

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