Set in a small rural hamlet deep in the Dorset countryside, the Pilsdon Community is a small charity farming community which offers accommodation and work to homeless people. Since 1958, the Pilsdon Community has been offering a refuge to people in crisis, welcoming those from all backgrounds and from many different walks of life – whether young or old, rich or poor. Pilsdon is a community that shares a common life of prayer, hospitality and work, providing an environment of acceptance and friendship where people can begin to rebuild their lives.
The site consists of a house, a courtyard of farm buildings including a 17th century barn, horse boxes and a small church with Norman origins.
To mark their 50th anniversary, the Community was awarded a Government grant to renovate the dilapidated barn and horse boxes creating new accommodation units.
Phase I of their redevelopment plans, the barn restoration, was supported by CRASH patrons AECOM and EC Harris who provided professional expertise and BAM Construction managers who undertook a community challenge to 'Make TIME' (a BAM programme where employees can have two days paid leave for voluntary work to help the communities in which we live and work) to paint the barn's windows and doors.
Phase II, otherwise known as 'The Loose Boxes', is now underway. This project involves converting an existing stable block into short-term accommodation for people who have been sleeping rough. EC Harris has already undertaken a huge amount of pro bono work on this project as well as a donation towards the funding as part of the company's Legacy Project. Working alongside them is fellow CRASH patron BAM Construction who was appointed as the main contractor for this phase and is tapping into its supply chain to procure materials and labour free of charge or at greatly reduced rates. BAM and EC Harris have also introduced Arup and NVB Architects to support the project, both assisting the charity through considerably reducing their professional fees for a project of this scale.
The works included the demolition of the dilapidated timber 'loose boxes', removal and reinstatement of ground floor slab, introduction of new drainage, erection of a new timber frame and roof structure clad with timber weatherboard and natural slate to allow occupation of half of the new building by the community cattle prior to Christmas. The continuing works to the second half of the new building, which is due for completion at the end of March 2014, include the fit-out of the accommodation units, food preparation room and multi-purpose activity room. Many of the materials and labour have been sourced locally to the site in addition to a number of BAM's loyal subcontractors who have been willing to commit their specialist expertise and resources to the project.
"There is a huge sense of satisfaction watching the new building emerge from the old; keeping its character but with a new practical purpose" says Nick Goff, Construction Director of BAM. "Working within the Community has been a very humbling experience, and we have been delighted by the generosity of our supply-chain and BAM Plant in assisting with this worthwhile project".
Due to the unique nature of Pilsdon, all contractors needed to not only be technically competent and environmentally aware, but also be understanding and compassionate of those living in the community who would be working alongside them.
"This was a unique, exciting project and one that enthused all those involved from the outset," said CRASH Chief Executive Francesca Roberts. "As the industry charity, CRASH encourages companies to get directly involved in helping homelessness projects like The Pilsdon Community that ask us for assistance. This project is a perfect example of what the construction industry can do and shows it at its very best.
"Companies take the truly intelligent approach to charitable giving, working with CRASH. It means not only can they donate money but we can utilise their amazing craftsmanship, materials and humanity to help people who are vulnerable and excluded members of our society. This is what makes the partnership between CRASH and our Patron companies like BAM so unique, practical and efficient.
"It has been a pleasure privilege and honour to work with BAM and all construction industry companies who have helped on this project."
CRASH is the construction industry's charity that supports homeless people. You can find out more about its work at www.crash.org.uk
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