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Twin wins for Willmott mark skills step-change for Yorkshire

Scarborough is reinventing itself as a seat of learning with two institutions being built for two clients on a single site.

Project: Scarborough University Technical College / Coventry University
Client: Scarborough UTC project partners and Education Funding Agency / Coventry University
Contract value: £9.3m / £8.6m
Contract type: NEC Option A – Design and build
Region: Yorkshire & the Humber
Main contractor: Willmott Dixon
Start date: October 2015
Completion date: November 2016

It’s fair to say that the Yorkshire seaside resort of Scarborough is not exactly well known as an academia hotspot.

More famous for ‘Kiss-Me-Quick’ hats than ‘mortarboard’ caps, the town has historically been a net exporter of its brightest scholarly talent.

But two institutions are determined to turn that tide by setting up new campuses aimed at stemming the brain-drain from Scarborough and the wider East Yorkshire region.

The first of these will be Scarborough University Technical College: a government-funded, industry-oriented school for 14-18-year-olds. Backed by the University of Hull and local businesses, it will combine the national curriculum in English and maths with study in more vocational, technical and engineering subjects.

The second institution will be an extension of Coventry University, some 240 km away from its main campus in the Midlands. A new satellite campus in Scarborough will offer a range of academic qualifications including foundation years, Higher National Certificates, Higher National Diplomas and degrees.

Triple contract whammy

The two facilities are being built alongside one another under two completely different contracts, with different clients on the same development site where main contractor Willmott Dixon is delivering the new Scarborough Leisure Village.

Willmott Dixon Scarborough SE4

Willmott Dixon Scarborough SE4

The UTC features various cladding systems including the ‘patchwork’ rainscreen

Gavin Redfern is Willmott Dixon’s senior build manager on the £8.6m Coventry University Scarborough Campus project and admits that juggling deliveries and plant movements between the three projects via just one small access road has been testing.

“At times it has been very busy,” he says. “Between us we have all had to make sure we plan deliveries and plant movements. There is only one way in and one way out. It is difficult when you are sharing a single site access.”

“We looked briefly at a precast frame or in-situ concrete, but because of the likelihood for future adaptation we tend to go down the structural steel route”

Simon Atkinson, Willmott Dixon

The Coventry University Scarborough Campus (CUSC) building is being delivered under Scape’s National Major Works framework and will house a series of electronic laboratories, a ‘super lab’, various ICT rooms, general teaching rooms, lecture theatres and staff offices spread across its three levels.

A steel frame was chosen for the building, after other materials such as precast concrete or cast in-situ concrete were quickly dismissed.

“It was always going to be steel really,” admits Willmott Dixon construction manager Simon Atkinson. “We looked briefly at a precast frame or in-situ concrete, but because of the likelihood for future adaptation we tend to go down the structural steel route in these circumstances and the CUSC building was no different.”

Rigorous site investigation

A rigorous site investigation with numerous trial pits to locate power cables running across the site took place prior to the piling installation, which has seen a team from specialist contractor Roger Bullivant install 134 CFA piles.

The bulk of these are 450 mm in diameter, drilled to bedrock at depths of between 10 m and 20 m. The subcontractor installed 600 mm-diameter piles at major column loading points.

Willmott Dixon Scarborough SE2

Willmott Dixon Scarborough SE2

Each of the floor slabs in the CUSC building are 200 mm thick with a screeded finish, but the ground-floor slab is structural bearing rather than ground bearing. “We thought the ground may fall away beneath and so designed the slab to be structural bearing across a series of ground beams,” Mr Redfern explains. “There is around 80 tonnes of steel reinforcement in it.”

Four mobile cranes were used to help lift in the steel during the erection, with the building’s plant room and M&E services as well as a solar panel array placed on the roof. The building itself is clad in a mixture of curtain walling and composite panel rainscreen systems which have proven challenging to install (see box).

Classroom cladding lesson

Both the CUSC and UTC buildings feature a variety of cladding systems from standard glazing units to curtain walling, but the bulk of the buildings’ elevations are covered with rainscreen cladding systems.

On the CUSC this is a regular-sized panel system, but on the UTC building the panel sizes are varied to create a patchwork effect.

For both projects, the cladding was intended to be fixed to a lightweight steel framing system, but in a move designed to save precious time on site, the Willmott Dixon team elected to do without the lightweight steel, instead using packers to place the cladding panels from the structural steel.

However, with the structural steel having a level tolerance of around +/-10 mm and the cladding systems requiring a perfectly level surface for their own zero tolerance, correcting the packers was a time-consuming task.

“There are lots of different sizes of cladding that we have had to deal with on the UTC,” Mr Tyler says. “It was difficult getting the system true. Inserting the packers to make sure we got the system lined up correctly took time and was very challenging. Now it is complete I think all that effort was worthwhile and it looks good.”

Construction manager Simon Atkinson points to the valuable experience gained: “We took the initial time saving by not using the lightweight steel framing system, but then lost out during the installation of the panels themselves. We will take that lesson on the chin and learn from it.”

The UTC building is of a similar design to the CUSC and while the building will also feature lecture theatres, breakout rooms, staff rooms and study space, the college is laid out around a large atrium space. This has been designed to accommodate a scale model of the Bloodhound SSC – a supersonic car designed and built in the UK that its team hopes will beat the current land speed record.

Open-plan workshop and classroom areas on the ground floor will reflect the facility’s engineering and science focus, and will include a specially designed brazing hearth and cutting and welding booths.

In common with the CUSC building, the UTC features a steel frame with piled foundations, ground beams and slabs. There are 300 of the CFA piles beneath the UTC building – again installed to depths of 10-20 m and diameters of 450 mm and 600 mm.

Tricky slab installation

The ground-floor slab is suspended with more than 80 tonnes of 20 mm steel bar at 150 mm centres and was a particular challenge to install, according to Willmott Dixon’s senior build manager on the UTC project, Neil Tyler. “There is lots of drainage running through there as well as the underfloor heating,” he says. “The slab is recessed through the central atrium because of that.”

Willmott Dixon Scarborough SE5

Willmott Dixon Scarborough SE5

Ceilings are installed in the airy entrance atrium of the new UTC

The steel frame is clad in a mixture of systems including glazing, curtain walls and a rainscreen-style patchwork system. “There are lots of different sizes through the patchwork cladding, which has been tricky to install, but we have managed to work with it. I think it looks good now it is in place,” Mr Tyler says.

With the new academic year now under way, the construction teams on both projects have scaled back operations as the first clutch of students have enrolled on their courses.

Coupled with the new Leisure Village nearing completion next door, these buildings are set to offer a step-change in opportunities for local residents and put Scarborough firmly on the academic map.

Switching design saves time

The two educational buildings are very similar in terms of overall design, with both featuring cast in-situ slabs for the ground floor and first and second storeys.

The plan had been that the roof slab for both buildings would be of similar cast in-situ construction, with a built-up roof system placed above that. But in another move to cut time from the project programme, the Willmott Dixon teams elected to ditch the built-up roof design, replacing it with a prefabricated system supplied by manufacturer Kingspan.

The Willmott Dixon team used the Kingspan Topdek system across the UTC and CUSC buildings, which helped shave weeks from the contract programmes. “That change saved masses of time,” Mr Redfern says. “On the CUSC we went from six weeks set aside in the programme to the roof being installed and completed within two weeks.”

Although he doesn’t have the figures to hand, the change certainly helped the team working on the UTC building, according to Mr Tyler. “Changing to the Kingspan Topdek system helped us claw back some time, there’s no doubt.”

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