First-class student accommodation is in short supply in London so the 617 studio flats and twin rooms Berkeley First Ltd is completing at Goodman's Field are urgently needed: but building in one of the busiest areas of London as part of a major mixed-use development is not without challenges.
Danny Ellis, Project Director, for Berkeley First, tells Industry Image about the project and how the Scheme has been incorporated into daily activities and work patterns.
Please can you describe the project you are working on?
Goodman's Fields South West student accommodation is a 10-storey student block - located just to the north of Tower Bridge. In addition to the students' flats and rooms, Berkeley First has also built a gym, dance studio, music rooms and a large cycle store in the basement and a first floor courtyard garden. The student campus is part of a larger regeneration scheme by The Berkeley Group of one, two and three bedroom apartments, a hotel, commercial space, a health centre, pool, cinema and a new public park and plaza.
How have you incorporated the Scheme into your site?
We are enthusiastic supporters of the Scheme and try to lead the way. We are very proud to have achieved such high scores in our recent audit – 45 points out of a possible 50! We are particularly hot on presentation – that's of the site and the staff themselves; there's even a mirror so we can double check we're smart enough before leaving the site compound! We abide by the usual site dress code of yellow high visibility jackets, hard hats, boots and gloves and protective glasses have to be carried at all times.
Our site office is treated as we do our marketing suites; it's clean, smart and approachable with deep planted flower beds to the front - we want to demonstrate from the start that we have a high attention to detail. On the side of the site facing the road, we've installed a gantry across the pavement to maintain full accessibility for pedestrians with recessed lights and viewing panels in the hoardings, so passersby can both see what's happening and remain safe. The hoarding is clearly branded with high quality images and inspected daily; we also employ a road sweeper to keep the road and pavements clear of debris.
The Scheme is mentioned in all team meetings. We have a board where safety messages are displayed and there are regular training sessions on safety and emphasising safe ways to work. We go one stage further and rather than just tell staff what they must do, we spend time making sure people fully appreciate the consequences they and their family face in the case of an accident. We call it the Safely Home Campaign.
In case anyone from outside the site does want to make a complaint, we have posters on our hoardings giving a name and telephone number, so they can immediately report their concerns. We hand deliver about 400 newsletters each month to local residents and also send round a 'how are we doing' questionnaire.
As part of our work with the community we refurbished the playground of the Sir John Cass School which included building a new sandpit. Children aged three to 11 were given educational talks about safety and we invited 10 small groups of under-threes to the site where safety messages were delivered in the form of a game: Hunt the Hazard. Three teenagers have joined us for work experience, along with a student studying architecture. Contractors brought in clothes to pass onto the Whitechapel Mission that helps the homeless and street sleepers. In October we are organising a black tie boxing dinner for 300 people to raise money for the Lansbury Boxing club.
Since the beginning of the project what challenges have you faced?
This is a very congested area, with a red route on one of our boundaries. The whole site is run by two contractors – Berkeley First & Berkeley Capital and comprises three separate teams so effective communication between all parties has been essential. Two of the teams for instance are constructing basement car parks three metres deeper than the basement for the student campus - and on three of the four sides of our site. So logistics such as drainage and access have had to be carefully worked out; another challenge has been organising deliveries and waste management between the teams. Other challenges are related to aspects such as controlling noise and pollution and avoiding traffic hold ups as we're in a residential area and office area so need to be mindful of our neighbours. We also have a large workforce, many of whom are foreign, so ensuring they understand the safety messages and ensuring their welfare is mandatory.
How have you been able to overcome these?
We use a logistics company to liaise with all the teams at Goodman's Fields; booking in all deliveries at different times of the day, 24 hours in advance, to mitigate congestion. When vehicles leave the site their wheels pass through a jet wash to help keep the local roads clean. At times when we have had to close a road we have employed a lollypop lady to help pedestrians.
A waste management plan ensures that waste is recycled or reused where possible. Any surplus materials are logged on the company's intranet so they can used by other company sites.
All contractors are given a written English test to ensure that everyone on site is able to understand health and safety requirements and the message of the Scheme. To look after our workforce the canteen supplies healthy choices of food. A nurse comes in once a month for occupational health issues and advice that can include stress and debt counseling. Eyesight, cholesterol and lung capacity are also tested.
Could you detail a few examples of good practice you have put in place on the site?
Noise and vibration levels are carefully monitored using sensors along the perimeter of the site. These send a text to a mobile phone if levels exceed those agreed with the local environmental health department. Then someone goes to the monitor to see what is wrong and to make changes – stopping the work if necessary.
To support the wider community, we have given the local fire brigade access to the site at weekends to practice crane exercises, rescuing a dummy from the cab of the crane.
As a further measure to improve the environment we have a Green Travel Awareness Day once a month whereby staff are encourage to use public transport/change the way they come to work; we take statistics the week before, during and afterwards to measure the improvements.
Any other comments?
As Scheme Monitor Malcolm Viccars said after an inspection: "What a great site. The community activities are many and various and I have no doubt will leave a very strong, and in some cases, personal legacy.'
Young people in this area can be victims of violence and intimidation involved in 'postcode' gang wars. To try to break down this distrust the site set up and sponsored a football team involving players from various postcodes. As a legacy, Berkeley First is working to bring different organisations - from sporting clubs, educational groups, charities, hospices and businesses - together for their mutual benefit. Finally free kayak lessons are available for young people at the nearby Leaside Centre, dependent on success in the classroom. Berkeley also sponsored students to take the Kayak Challenge across the English Channel.
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