Prince Charles House
The Prince Charles House redevelopment will provide 31 eco-friendly apartments in the heart of St Austell, Cornwall, together with communal facilities for the wider neighbourhood. It is being constructed to meet BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ and will generate 70% of the energy that is uses via photovoltaic panels. The £5.9 million project is a significant investment by the Ocean Housing Group and has attracted a £3.5 million grant from Cornwall Council’s Eco-communities fund, set up to showcase examples of low carbon living in the county.
Artist impression of the project.
Brendon Cocking from Gilbert & Goode tells us more about this construction site and how they have embraced the values of the CCS.
Incorporating the CCS in the project
Training and education
- We have formed a strong partnership with Cornwall College and the project is providing them with a unique learning opportunity. Our first joint venture was to establish a site webcam. This enables students, residents and project partners to view the development’s progress live on our website www.princecharleshouse.com, where they can also see bespoke videos, photo galleries and project information.
- Construction students enjoy regular site visits and presentations by the project team and these are tailored to fit into their coursework in consultation with lecturers.
Masonry students get a feel for the construction industry during the excavation and foundation works.
The educational benefits are not only construction orientated - this summer, art and design students decorated several site hoardings which brighten up the entrance to the development.
Up-skilling local suppliers and businesses
- An equally important aspect of the project is up-skilling local suppliers and contractors to ensure they have the necessary qualifications and certification to undertake this type of eco construction. Typically, these are smaller companies which need our assistance to put them on a level playing field with their national competitors.
- Cornwall Council funding enabled BRE to investigate our local supply chain and six of our main suppliers were selected for assistance. Without this process and the necessary environmental certification, we would not have been able to contract their services or buy their materials.
Keeping local residents informed and involved
- We recognised that this project was not only challenging in terms of construction, but also in relation to the proximity of neighbouring properties and the surrounding community. From the outset, the client’s primary concern has been the welfare of residents and we work closely with the Ocean housing team to ensure their needs continue to be met.
- We also have a dedicated project officer who handles any resident queries and hosts regular drop in sessions at the site information centre. Our regular newsletters include project updates which are well received by residents.
During the summer, the site sponsored and helped a local residents’ association to hold a community Fun Day, attended by more than 300 local people.
Overcoming the challenges of the project
Relocating 20 elderly residents
- The apartments are replacing a 50 year old sheltered accommodation building that we demolished to make way for the new development. The first major challenge was relocating the 20 elderly residents from their homes to suitable properties and this alone took 12 months to plan and included extensive consultation. The relocation was successfully completed with great care, sensitivity and support for the residents.
- Twelve neighbouring properties were also given the opportunity to relocate due to their proximity to the construction work. Members of our team regularly visit those residents who opted to remain in their homes to ensure they are comfortable and kept fully informed about the progress on site.
Densely populated site location
The site is in the centre of a heavily populated neighbourhood with a restricted entrance. This has caused further challenges including the demolition of the previous building, contractor parking and the logistics of delivering materials to site. These have been overcome by:
- dismantling the building ‘piece by piece’ and monitoring any dust and noise;
- constructing a temporary car park with designated spaces for contractors, residents, taxis and the resident nurse;
- ensuring materials are delivered on smaller vehicles.
Examples of good practice
Occupational nurses give regular health checks to Gilbert & Goode employees and our local supply chain. We have called it the ‘Builders MOT’ and it includes on-site tests for blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as appropriate advice and recommendations. The site team also give their blood, sweat and tears to the project as they regularly donate to the local blood bank.
Site office goes green
The site office has been equipped with an impressive array of photovoltaic panels which generates its own energy and also runs the welfare facilities. The scheme has a 380 sq metre area of photovoltaic panels on the roof which generates electricity, providing free energy during construction.
Close working with Cornwall College
We anticipate that by the end of the project we will have had over 1,000 students directly involved through site visits and Gilbert & Goode presentations at the college, with many more indirectly involved with the project through our website.
Learning opportunities in green technologies
Our specialist photovoltaic contractor has agreed to hold a special presentation in the college theatre to explain to students, partners and clients how the system operates and integrates into the scheme and the national grid.
Supporting our local hospice care
We are planning to smarten up the workforce with a sponsored ‘trimmathon’ using local college hair and beauty students to carry out waxing, hair cutting and the removal of any extraneous body hair! The proceeds will go to Cornwall Hospice Care.
CCS Monitor, Norman Reed, adds his thoughts on what impressed him when he visited the site.
Tell us about your background in the construction industry?
I joined Taylor Woodrow as a civil engineer straight from university and spent most of my early career based on sites. I left mainstream construction in the late 70’s and managed two specialist lifting companies working in the oil industry where I stayed for nearly 20 years. In 1996, I returned to Taylor Woodrow as MD of their northern regional company before retiring in 2002.
I became a Monitor in 2004 and a Director between 2005 and 2009 (including 2 years as Chairman).
What did you find particularly interesting about the site?
The site is a strong performer in all sections of the Scheme’s Site Code of Considerate Practice. Even before the project began, affected neighbours were given a free choice of whether to stay put or decant to other (nearby) homes. About 50% decided to stay put and the contractor’s construction methods and programme were then adapted around the neighbours to cause minimum inconvenience. The contractor also made use of the empty decanted dwellings for site offices and facilities.
Do you have any other comments about the project?
This medium sized contractor has been a long standing supporter of the CCS and a previous award winner. The CCS is very prominent in the site induction and its ethos diffuses throughout the entire company and its subcontractors. One example of their commitment on this project was a well-attended community Fun Day where the CCS banner was given equal billing to the contractors own signage.
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