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Noah's Ark project unites industry in north London

A project to build a new children’s hospice in Barnet is seeing the industry come together to help reduce costs and leave a legacy for the community.

“We’re trying to achieve something quite special here, something that our industry doesn’t normally do: collaboration.”

Neil Andrews of cost consultant RPS is summing up the special nature of an unusual project set to get under way later this year.

RPS has been providing pro-bono cost consultancy to the Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice for several years now, in support of its aim to build a new children’s hospice building in Barnet. It presents a rare chance for the industry to come together and leave a lasting legacy in the form of north London’s only children’s hospice.

Big-name support

The project has already attracted the support of a number of big names.

The list of supporters includes Sellar Property Group, JLL UK, Pears Property, Squire and Partners, Ramboll, Gensler, Hok and Erith Demolition.

8build was appointed as main contractor for the project and looked to drum up support from its supply chain last month by organising a subcontractor engagement event, with CN among the attendees.

Noahs Ark childrens hospice High Barnet 8build N27

Noahs Ark childrens hospice High Barnet 8build N27

The entrance is designed to be as warm and welcoming as possible

“We became aware of the need for Noah’s Ark to find a contractor to support them through our association with [the charity] Crash,” says8build co-founder and director Nigel Bellamy. “We’re working with them to keep the costs as low as possible, trying to use the goodwill in our supply chain and with other specialists we know in the industry to get them the best value, product and outcome.”

“Every pound we save on the building goes back into our care delivery and our growth”

Ru Watkins, Noah’s Ark

The build is set to start this September and is set to take 65 weeks. Its cost would be £6m – if it was built using the normal commercial route.

“We get no funding from central government for this,” explains Noah’s Ark chief executive Ru Watkins. “We’ve already driven down costs through value engineering and by having 8build and our QS on side, and we’re taking that number down all the time. Every pound we save on the building goes back into our care delivery and our growth.”

A needed facility

Noah’s Ark has grown considerably as an organisation in the past three years, doubling both its care team and its turnover from £1m to £2m.

The need for the building is stark: Mr Watkins says there are 1,200 children with life-limiting or life-threatening illnesses within the Noah’s Ark north and central London catchment area alone – and because those figures were collated two years ago, the number has likely grown.

Noahs Ark childrens hospice High Barnet 8build IPI childrens Room

Noahs Ark childrens hospice High Barnet 8build IPI childrens Room

The charity wanted to maximise the great views of the site

“We’re on a journey to look after an ever-increasing population,” he says. “Our care delivery is not only just for the child; we also look after the mums, dads and siblings, which is very critical.”

Noah’s Ark has operated in the community up until now, carrying out vital work with ill children and their families. But this hospice build will provide it a permanent home on 7.5 ha of greenbelt land in Barnet. The charity currently supports 150 children in homes and community; the new building will allow it to care for 450.

“We’re going to tender packages and we’ll look to get people to price the market value of those, and then show separately what commercial adjustment or services they can provide”

Chris Dyer, 8build

“Our board had the foresight to buy this land, and two years ago we went out to the construction industry, our families, the health sector, a whole series of organisations both third sector and private, and asked what we’d need to do,” Mr Watkins says.

“They had this thing called the ‘Big Think’ – and they came back with a list longer than what we thought we could ever do. We said to the industry, here’s the challenge: design us this building that will see us into the 21st century, that will take the charity forward as we grow, and more importantly, provide somewhere for the children and families to feel safe and enjoy the land.”

The organisations listed above have come together in different ways to meet this goal, with the design going through a number of iterations. The proposed building is shaped like a butterfly, a symbol of the children’s palliative care sector, with the design optimised to deliver the best value for the charity while providing the best care for the children.

Thoughtful design

“We’re incredibly lucky because the site we have is beautiful, on the edge of Barnet and in the green belt. There are wonderful views in all directions,” explains Murray Levinson, partner at Squire and Partners, architect for the project.

“One of the key aspects that we were always fundamentally trying to deliver was to maximise views. It is an amazing location so why would we turn our back on such a wonderful outlook? We deliberately tried to arrange the plan so that all of the spaces, no matter what use, would get these views, either onto pieces of our own landscaping or into the distance onto the green belt.”

“The shape of the building lends itself to open, outstretched arms, welcoming people into Noah’s Ark”

Murray Levinson, Squire and Partners

The team are cleverly using the natural slope of the site to this end, efficiently providing two storeys at one end of the building, with views looking out into the countryside on the other side. Its four wings all serve a purpose: one for children’s accommodation; one for family accommodation; an administration suite; and play areas and therapy rooms.

The centrepiece of the building is a barn-like atrium flooded with natural light, designed to be as warm and welcoming as possible. “It’s a contemporary interpretation of an oak barn, with glass at both north and south ends giving you a view down the hill towards the green belt,” Mr Levinson says. “The shape of the building lends itself to open, outstretched arms, welcoming people into Noah’s Ark.”

Call to arms

Procurement on the project is now well under way, with that September start date firmly in the build team’s minds.

“We’re trying to start earlier if we can, to keep our costs down and subcontractors’ costs down,” Mr Bellamy says. “We’re always mindful of inflation too, which can eat into the numbers. We’re trying to get ahead of the curve.”

Noahs Ark childrens hospice High Barnet 8build N10

Noahs Ark childrens hospice High Barnet 8build N10

Enabling children to enjoy the green space is a priority

8build is now seeking partners from within its own supply chain, as well as those it may not have worked with before, to come forward and provide whatever services people may be able to offer to help deliver the scheme.

“In essence, we’re going to follow a fairly traditional process,” says 8build divisional director Chris Dyer. “We’re going to tender packages and we’ll look to get people to price the market value of those, and then show separately what commercial adjustment or services they can provide. That might be extended warranties or ongoing maintenance, or something else. What else can you bring to the table?”

There is a long list of packages available (see box) which the team is still looking to fulfil. “In terms of materials, we’re trying to be as sensible as possible because we don’t want Noah’s Ark to have an enormous maintenance budget every year,” Mr Levinson adds. “But equally, we want to produce a building that isn’t dull, and that people are proud of.”

A project like this doesn’t come around every day – and it’s one that, with the help of the construction industry, can leave a lasting legacy for children with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions and their families.

“I am determined – and so is the team – to drive down the cost,” Mr Watkins says. “We are talking to the construction industry to say, ‘Help us do this’. If you do, we can help more and more families. I don’t see this building as a standalone programme – it’s very much a partnership.

“It’s their building too.”

List of subcontract packages:

  • Blockwork
  • Brickwork
  • Carpentry/joinery
  • Concrete block paving
  • Decorations
  • Distribution
  • Doors
  • Drainage
  • Dry lining
  • Electrical
  • External lighting
  • Floor finishes
  • Ground beams
  • Groundworks
  • Hire plant
  • Hoist systems and beds
  • Insulation to underfloor heating
  • Ironmongery
  • Jacuzzi
  • Kitchens
  • Landscaping
  • Lifts
  • Logistics
  • Mechanical
  • Office furniture
  • Playground equipment
  • Precast concrete
  • Resin bound paving
  • Roofing
  • Rooflights
  • Scaffolding
  • Site accommodation
  • Site furniture
  • Structural timber frames
  • Temporary electricals and plumbing
  • Tiling
  • Toilet cubicles
  • Underfloor heating
  • Waterproofing
  • Windows

To discuss, companies and individuals should contact 8build at or call 020 7710 4487.

For more information on the Building the Ark campaign visit:

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