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Minories report

Garreth Joyce of Walsh Associates explains the challenges presented by the Minories student accommodation project in London

Posted by Dave Higgitt | August 29, 2014 | Bricks & mortar

About the project 

The Minories is a 172-student accommodation block arranged over ten storeys with 220sqm of retail space over ground and basement levels. It was awarded a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating, incorporating a range of environmental measures including a feature living wall, aimed to extend the adjacent park space. It won the LABC Award 2013 for ‘Best Affordable Housing Development’. 

Challenges 

The challenges in student accommodation generally revolve around economy by design and programme surety, and this was the case with the Minories project. 

Economy by design

With the tight margins of student housing, economic structural design is essential. Our goal in all our projects is to utilise our design expertise to strive for a more collaborative design process, adding value and quality for our clients.

The original design of the Minories proposed the installation of new piled foundations, but with our expertise in re-use we were able to design a far more cost- and time-efficient solution. Firstly, a demolition specification was compiled for the existing building that occupied the site. We were then able to justify re-using part of the existing foundation from the previous building. For the other areas an RC raft foundation was proposed, which was founded on the dense gravels at basement level and thus the need for piled foundations was avoided.

The previous scheme had a 900dp deep RC transfer slab at first floor. By extensive collaboration with the architect and project team we were able to align the columns from basement to roof to negate the need for the deep transfer slab. This led to an overall reduction in building height, which achieved considerable savings in cladding costs for the client. 

Programme surety

The financial implications of late delivery in the student housing sector mean that programme surety is of paramount importance. Because of this we always ensure a close working relationship with the client and contractor to realise programme savings wherever possible.

Due to archaeological findings the groundworks programme fell behind. By working with the framing contractor we devised measures to accelerate the programme, including precast columns and welded mesh reinforcement in the RC flat slabs. This ultimately led to the frame being completed eight weeks early despite starting four weeks late: a saving of 12 weeks on an over-running programme.

By investing time and effort in the detailed co-ordination process, we were able to release all construction information, including reinforcement details, well in advance of the original information release schedule. This again assisted the frame contractor to promote programme savings. 

Fact File

Client: Urbanest
Architect: BFLS
Contract: £15 million

Garreth Joyce is an Associate Director at Walsh Associates, and a member of the Institution of Structural Engineers

Walsh Associates are a structural engineering building consultancy, delivering innovative solutions to clients, in an environment that allows engineers to thrive. Their aim is to make complex structures simple and conventional structures more efficient.

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