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A brighter future for Erith

Excellence in construction

With only two years from the start of demolition to completion of the first 169 units, Wates Living Space’s construction team faced a huge challenge. Nonetheless, the team’s relentless focus meant we met and surpassed the target, with 216 homes complete by the March 2014 deadline. Phase 1 was completed in entirety by November 2015, saving almost a year off our construction programme.

This was achieved through detailed logistics planning, careful sequencing, progress monitoring and early intervention whenever timescales began to slip.

The site was well-managed throughout, both helping sub-contractors to work efficiently and ensuring an excellent health and safety record. With over 360 workers on site at the peak of activity, there were just three reportable incidents.

The site had significant level differences, and engineers carefully calculated the optimum degree of levelling to achieve a site with level access and usable gardens throughout. The first few months saw crushing of the demolition arisings to be buried on site and moving 950 lorry loads of mud. Levels were respectively raised and reduced in different areas of the site by around seven meters. Wates Living Space’s use of demolition product for fill meant that no general fill was removed from site, reducing both costs and environmental impact.

The level of groundwork in the first six months meant that construction had to start at the far end of the site, furthest from the only access point. Therefore, constructing the site road was a main priority, to ensure that Wates Living Space could continue to work effectively throughout the winter months.

A 4D computer model helped us to plan the sequence of build to ensure that each operation did not interfere with progress on adjacent blocks. We maintained tight control of logistics, with every delivery element planned and timed, with careful prioritisation of our limited on-site storage space.

Sub-contractors worked on a programme of completing five flats or houses a week. Site managers monitored progress and addressed issues as they arose. During construction we learnt lessons and adapted our approach. This included during construction of the first houses, when we found that the complex roofs and dormers caused programme delays, affecting the critical path of the project. So we switched to spandrel panels to enable us to catch up with the programme.

Orbit’s contract manager was based on site and worked closely with the site team to resolve any build problems as they arose. On a site of this size it is inevitable that some of the details on the drawings need adapting during build. Early identification and quick agreement of preferred solutions enabled us to optimise the design without losing momentum. Both Orbit and Wates Living Space staff remained constant, helping us to develop and maintain strong relationships based on mutual respect – and a commitment to joint problem solving.

Site management of apartments and houses was split, with different sub-contractors on each. This reduced the risk of sub-contractor failure and mitigated the effect if it did happen. Wates Living Space also recognised the importance of cash flow to sub-contractors, so ensured prompt payment and met regularly with sub-contractor directors to deal with any problems quickly.

A dedicated building services manager, based on site, focussed on works and legal agreements relating to utilities. His focus and expertise helped us to avoid delays due to the many complex services on site.

To ensure the site remained safe once the first residents moved into completed homes, teams carefully timed and coordinated deliveries. This was combined with a stable team of gate staff, who understood safety to be the utmost priority for our new residents having safe access through the building site, whilst acting in good nature and building sensitive relationships with the community.

Throughout the construction work, we were responsive to the needs of our neighbours who were living in close proximity to the building works. Our attention to the needs of staff and neighbours was recognised by the Considerate Constructor Scheme in 2016, which assessed Erith Park highly, culminating in a coveted Gold award for Lawrence Baxter, Project Manager for Wates.

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