Articles

Library of Birmingham

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The Library of Birmingham is a £188.8m project located at the heart of the city of Birmingham and will replace the existing Central Library with a new state of the art 21st century learning hub and centre for knowledge. The project is currently underway and is due to complete in 2013.

Michael Winhall, Sustainability & Communications Manager for Carillion plc, tells us about the project and how they have involved the local community.

How have you incorporated the Scheme into your site?

The Considerate Constructors Scheme has been fully embraced on the project, and the behaviour that the Scheme encourages all construction sites to adopt has been embedded into the DNA of the team. The project has been built around team work, respect and cooperation, and this ethos includes: the client’s team; designers; construction partners; local businesses; neighbours; residents; and the general public.

Since the beginning of the project, what challenges have you faced and how have you been able to overcome these?

One of our biggest challenges was that building a new 70 metre tall building on a tight city centre plot, where 10,000 people a day walk past, was always going to impact the local community, especially as the construction phase will have a presence on Centenary Square for a period of four and a half years. We were going to be a very noticeable neighbour; but the projects mantra has always been to make that a positive impact.

We overcame this issue by embracing as many people as possible and welcoming them as part of the wider team. For example, the local residents' committee attend regular meetings that are held in our offices where we give them updates on the project. They are also able to use our facilities for their own meetings. We bring together the local community on to site and discuss wider issues which lead to solutions.

Could you detail a few examples of good practice you have put in place on site?

We work to understand our neighbours’ goals and projects, and offer support where we can. A recent ‘Grow Space’ garden was supported to the tune of £6,500 by Carillion and our subcontractors.

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A monthly site “snapshot” and quarterly site newsletter communicates the progress to all the local neighbours and is distributed electronically, as well as uploaded to internet blog sites.

We involve local schools and educational facilities, offering tours, talks and case studies tailored to suite primary school children to professionals, including disability groups such as the DeafPLUS organisation.

By supporting the council’s activities through shared community meetings, media and press events, and major public events in the square, the profile of the library and the contribution being made to the local community is always shared and recognised. During the recent Arts Fest in Birmingham, the site opened its gates at the weekend to offer public tours, reaching 300 people that wanted to see the progress first hand.

One of the biggest successes is the commitment to employment and training. With over 100 of our 250 target for local employment opportunities filled, and having exceeded the original 25 apprentice placement target in the first year, we continue to up-skill and provide on-site training and NVQs for the site operatives, whilst also supporting the Business in the Community schemes such as Business Action on Homelessness – where the project has provided full time work to 40% of placements following the two week Ready for Work programme.





Scheme Monitor, Tim Richardson, recognised this site’s commitment to the values of considerate construction and discusses below what impressed him the most.

Tell us about your background in the construction industry?

I worked for several architectural practices, becoming qualified as a Chartered Architectural Technologist and Chartered Builder. I was a partner in a firm of architects and building surveyors for 10 years. Following that, I have done various freelance work including building surveying and teaching at Birmingham City University. I have also appeared in 24 episodes of the BBC’s To Buy Or Not To Buy programme as well as an episode of Cowboy Trap.

How long have you been working with the Scheme?

I have been a Monitor since 2009.

What was it about this site that you found particularly interesting?

The project is very high profile and the finished building will be a real local and national landmark. There are not many libraries of this scale built anywhere in the world so this is a really unique opportunity for everyone concerned. The location is right in the centre of Birmingham and surrounded by activity 24 hours a day.

How well has the site incorporated the Scheme into the project?

Just re-iterating what Michael said above, the site has a number of goals which fit very well into the Scheme’s criteria; environmental and local employment benefits have been incorporated into the project from the start and the site has exceeded its targets in many places already.

It would be expected that a project of this size would have excellent welfare facilities, but the Carillion team have thought very carefully about how they can make things better for the workforce and have acted on suggestions to make improvements. On-site catering arrangements, showers and lockers are all of an excellent standard. There have been other ideas put in place to help operatives in their private lives, including practical help with health and debt issues.

Do you have any other comments?

It has been a pleasure to monitor this site; the team are really committed to the aims of the Considerate Constructors Scheme and a lot of effort goes into trying to exceed Scheme standards wherever they can.

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