City of York Council West Offices


The City of York Council West Offices project is currently under development by Miller Construction (UK) Ltd, and on their recent Monitor visit, Scheme Monitor Philip Hughes said the site has “extremely good processes and procedures in place” and that “good initiatives across the board can be witnessed”.

Industry Image got in touch with Miller to ask them a bit more about this registered site.

Please can you describe the project you are working on?

We are currently on site of the new £32 million Headquarter building for City of York Council, working in partnership with S Harrison and Buccleuch Property (York LLP). The project involves the refurbishment of existing Grade 2* listed ‘historic’ offices, including demolition, new-build and external works. The re-development of West Offices, a former railway station and station hotel, originally built in the 1840’s, includes the erection of a four storey extension, with car and cycle parking facilities. The construction and refurbishment will enable council staff from different locations across the city to be relocated into one major headquarter building.

The new headquarters will include a customer centre, open-plan office accommodation for approximately 1400 staff, meeting rooms and parking facilities. The relocation of the remaining original train-shed will provide an external ‘break-out’ area. The new headquarter building is expected to be completed in September 2012.

How have you incorporated the Scheme into your site?

We have incorporated the Considerate Constructors Scheme onto our site in many ways. In addition to advertising our participation in the Scheme through CCS posters and banners, at the beginning of the project we carried out an introductory letter drop to the local residents, outlining the work that was going to be undertaken. Meetings were organised with our immediate neighbours, Hudson House and Cedar Court Hotel, outlining the works and reassuring them that disruption would be kept to a minimum. As the project progressed, we completed further letter drops, updating residents on the progress being made and advising them of demolition works that were due to take place. We also set up ‘Communication’ notice boards on the perimeter of the hoarding panels, with detailed monthly progress updates and progress images. This allowed us to involve the local community in the project at all stages.

Working in conjunction with the charity York Cares, we headed a project to transform a local primary school’s playing fields into allotments and garden plots, as part of the Big Community Challenge. We worked with 200 volunteers from 15 local businesses, two local high schools and members of the local community to build 24 plots, a water pipe and tap, three compost bins, and created gravel pathways with wheelchair access. As allotment waiting lists have become increasingly long, this challenge has delivered an outdoor area for those who otherwise would not have access to green spaces.

We have also ensured that all subcontractors on site must have a first-aider among their site team. Five members of the Miller site team are trained first aiders, and they are always equipped with mini first aid kit’s which are kept on them at all times.

We have employed a York-based recruitment agency, Coyles, as a one-stop centre to proactively promote local employment. To ensure local labour was utilised throughout this project, we invited our Supply Chain to a presentation, organised in partnership with Coyles, to outline the services we required. We currently employ over 25% of labour with a York postal code and 45% are based within a 20 mile radius of the site.

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

This has been a challenging project at times due to its location, the building’s historical importance and the environmental limitations. As part of the BREEAM process, we commissioned an Environmental Assessment in order to protect existing wildlife and trees, which was approved and successfully inspected by City of York Council’s Landscape Officer. Extensive tree protection fences surround all the retained trees within the site and these are clearly identified by signage, and no access is permitted within this area. The areas are monitored by the site management team, Consultant Arboriculturalist and City of York Council’s Principal Protection Officer.

Following a routine archaeological dig which was required to be carried out on site, the foundations of York’s Roman Public Baths were put on display to the general public for the first time since 1840, when the first railway station was constructed. Approximately 1000 people attended the public event to view the baths and other unexpected finds uncovered from the archaeological dig, including Roman coins, Roman pottery and fragments of a life size Roman pot.

Due to the city centre location of the site, working hours have been restricted to between 7.30am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, to respect our neighbours. This has also been built into our subcontractors orders, with all noisy activities scheduled for suitable times during the day. We strive to keep any possible disturbance to a minimum, for example, the demolition of the East Wing building took place over consecutive weekends, due to its close proximity to the Hudson House car park.

The site team has worked with York College to provide health and safety training; Asbestos Awareness courses have been undertaken to ensure all trainees are aware of potential risks when on site. This is extremely important given the age of the building and the increased risk of asbestos.

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

We have actively been working towards minimising our carbon footprint. The West Office site is one of a few pilot trial schemes to utilise the Skype Voice Over Internet communication with our Regional and National offices. This is reducing our carbon footprint from journey’s that would normally be made by car from site to offices for meetings.

We installed low energy flood lights in the compound area during the winter months which were intentionally downward facing and below three metres, to reduce light pollution, especially along the East façade where there is a known bat route. The flood lights are set to switch off during out of site hours. Other good practice measures include: all timber materials on this project must be sourced from a sustainable source and be FSC certified, we have supply chain agreements with national companies who have a local depot to reduce travel distance for the transportation of materials, and we operate an informal car share scheme, promoting our green travel plan to all subcontractors, reducing our carbon footprint.

Any other comments?

We actively promote good practice across all of our sites and take our corporate responsibility credentials very seriously. We actively knowledge share all of our best practices across the business.