Despite being just seven weeks from completion, Carillion’s Vita student accommodation site in Newcastle is open to pupils and the public today for Open Doors Week.
It’s a six-storey contemporary living space for today’s modern and, judging by the specification, demanding student, making for a fascinating site.
The perimeter takes about three minutes to walk round, with the neighbouring buildings – some of which are listed – so tight to the footprint that Carillion was not able to use a hoist to move materials and equipment around the site.
Open Doors Week Carillion Vita Newcastle 9
The contractor has been on site since November 2014, when it kicked off a 78-week programme for Select Properties’ student living brand Vita.
Fewer than two months out from handing the building over, there’s a lot to do -– but also a lot for today’s Open Doors tour to see on their way round.
The party comprises 15 pupils from Northumberland Church of England Academy who are studying a BTEC in construction and built environment.
Aged 14-15, the group are clearly eager to be here and although their lessons are currently broad, many are thinking about where they want to specialise in the next 18 months.
“Brickwork,” answers one, while his friend says at the same time: “Electrician.”
Open Doors Week Carillion Vita Newcastle 11
Carillion are brilliantly represented by project manager Leanne Swainston and project planner Colin Fish, who give detailed explanations of what they’re looking at and why it has been built that way.
In smaller groups, we’re shown a marketing suite of a student studio room first, a comfortable double bedroom with en-suite shower, kitchen facilities, wall-mounted TV and working space, finished to a remarkably high standard.
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“What’s it like?” asks one pupil. “You can lie down and make a scrambled egg,” his mate quips.
We’re then taken up the six flights of concrete stairs, looking out over a closed off flat roof towards Newcastle city centre, before wandering through a corridor with its many doors still covered in protective wrapping, temporary sockets dangling above.
Colin explains why the roofs are tiered away from the nearby church – right to light – while Leanne tells the group how the bathroom pods were built offsite, transported to Newcastle and lowered into position by tower crane.
Open Doors Week Carillion Vita Newcastle 4
The boys from the academy know their stuff too: one quizzes Leanne about the location of the risers and another has a close inspection of the window fittings, asking Colin about the glazing.
Afterwards, two of the group fill out hazard cards to identify potential risks they spotted during the walk.
What do they think of the opportunity Open Doors gives students like them, I ask. “It’s cool, better than just learning in class all the time,” one of the boys says.
Before they head back to lessons for the rest of the day, Leanne leaves them with some advice worth remembering. “You need to be motivated and willing to learn. But if you work hard and you’re good at your job, there’s good money to be made.”
Demolition subcontractor: Thompsons of Prudhoe
Client: Select Properties
Start date: November 2014
Completion date: July 2016
Open another door
Interested in Open Doors Week? Tackling the skills shortage and innovative construction are key themes at this year’s Construction News Summit on 11-12 October.
You can save 10 per cent on your place at the Summit when booking online! Book your place now using promotional code OPENDOORS.