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Center Parcs deal demands meticulous approach from Aggregate

Aggregate Industries’ concrete floors contract for Center Parcs’ new Woburn Forest resort was the company’s largest-ever Highflow liquid screed project and required careful planning to maximise capacity from the firm’s local plant.

Project Center Parcs, Woburn Forest, Bedfordshire

Client Center Parcs

Main contractor ISG

Screed subcontractor Mec-Serv

Concrete subcontractor Aggregate Industries

Material and quantity supplied Highflow, 2,500 cu m

Overall project value £250m

The £250m construction of Center Parcs’ fifth UK resort posed a major logistical challenge. The project essentially involved building a small town from scratch in the middle of prime green belt land – Woburn Forest in Bedfordshire.

Construction of the resort was split into three main packages: design and build for the main leisure and retail complex was won by Bowmer & Kirkland; infrastructure was won by Birse Civils; and accommodation was won by ISG.

Included in the £61m accommodation contract was the construction of 625 woodland lodges in a mix of two, three and four-bedroom layouts, built using offsite manufactured timber frames, structural insulated timber panels and tiled roofs. Each lodge also had a concrete floor.

Birse Civils was the first firm on site in May 2012, building the network of roads, paths, drains and lighting needed for both the construction phase and after, as well as levelling earth and carving out the giant lake at the centre of the development.

In November, ISG began construction of the lodges, with Aggregate Industries providing and pouring the concrete for the floors.

Providing value

The screed subcontractor was Mec-Serv and Aggregate was able to use a pre-existing relationship with the firm to secure the concrete contract for Center Parcs.

“We had targeted this as a job we wanted to win for some time,” explains Aggregate Industries regional specification manager Ian Farrar, who oversaw the concrete works on the lodges at Center Parcs.

“We had targeted this as a job we wanted to win for some time”

Ian Farrar, Aggregate Industries

“We had a good relationship with Mec-Serv and we had the capacity required to complete the job.”

Early on in the process, a change in materials was proposed by Aggregate. The team originally intended to use a sand-cement screed for the floors, but the switch was made to a thinner-flowing screed.

“Sand-cement is very labour-intensive,” Mr Farrar explains. “The flowing screed is more efficient and is four to five times quicker to install.”

The new material was also far more cost-effective, with Mr Farrar estimating that it saved £4 to £5 per sq m of floor – no mean feat considering that more than 2,500 cu m of concrete was supplied to cover 52,000 sq m of floor.

Tricky transport

Aggregate’s time on site lasted nine months – a reasonably tight programme for the installation of 625 lodge floors. “The change to the flowing screed over the sand-cement helped us to complete on time,” Mr Farrar says.

“The change to the flowing screed over the sand-cement helped us to complete on time”

Ian Farrar, Aggregate Industries

All of the concrete was poured on site, with three or four pours taking place each week. The number of pours meant the team’s biggest challenge was maintaining a sufficient level of supply. During the last six weeks of the project, in particular, concrete was required almost every day.

“We had a local plant in Milton Keynes, just nine miles away, that allowed to us meet the demands of the contract,” Mr Farrar says.

The logistics were tricky. Not only was the site large, with a total area of 350 acres, but most of the roads used for construction were single carriageway.

“This obviously made it tricky when moving vehicles around, so we had to plan everything carefully,” Mr Farrar says.

Every Aggregate vehicle was fitted with a tracking device to closely monitor where they were at all times. A single vehicle discharge took 30 minutes, with 20 to 25 minutes travel time from the local plant to the site. Each lorry carried 5 cu m of screed.

Access to the lodges would also change on an almost daily basis, meaning drivers would be pulled across the site at short notice.

“Keeping up with that level of demand was tough, but the tracking allowed us to know which vehicles had discharged when and maximise the level of supply,” Mr Farrar says.

“It was quite a big demand on our haulage – it took 60 per cent of our capacity in the area to keep up with the demand at its peak.”

Early finish

The contract for the lodge flooring was completed one week ahead of schedule, despite early delays that were no fault of Aggregate’s.

“We actually lost three to four weeks at the start due to some other issues, so we were able to claw back that time and finish even further ahead,” Mr Farrar explains.

“It was quite a big demand on our haulage – it took 60 per cent of our capacity in the area to keep up with the demand at its peak”

Ian Farrar, Aggregate Industries

The teamwork on the project was highlighted by both Met-Serv and Aggregate.

“Considering the size alone, along with the constantly changing site conditions and road closures, the Milton Keynes plant never missed a beat,” says Met-Serv commercial manager Warren Radford.

Aggregate Milton Keynes plant supervisor Nicholas Benning echoes this, saying the drivers in particular “contributed to the success of the project” despite lodge access changing “almost daily”.

The project was the largest-ever Highflow liquid screed project for Aggregate, for a high-profile client on a huge development.

“We were able to keep up consistently with the required demand, while the change in product and some good planning allowed us not only to keep up, but get ahead,” Mr Farrar says.

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