This scheme is one of only a few M4I projects nominated by an architect and the Ryder Company is also the main project representative. The Three Rivers Housing Association is currently situated in Victorian premises, but its expansion means it requires larger, more flexible modern offices. The £1.1 million new build scheme is due for completion in October this year.
The double-height building is situated on a greenfield site in Durham and comprises conference and board rooms, training and meeting rooms and ancillary accommodation, which is located on the mezzanine.
It is a relatively straightforward construction, utilising a steel frame with standing seam, curved roof, brickwork, cedar-boarded walls and Low E glazing.
After a competitive interview, the Ryder Company was awarded the contract and engaged in discussions with the main contractor and various subcontractors to consider how best to develop construction practices. The cost-effectiveness of the final build was improved by thinking of detailing early.
A variety of innovative ideas were developed, although cost constraints restricted the original design intent for low energy use throughout. For example, the desire for natural ventilation was revised to include mechanical systems although a water feature and the sectional layout is designed to assist air flows and cooling.
Mark Thompson of the Ryder Company recognises the business sense in getting involved with M4I: 'The importance of getting people together early to discuss and resolve buildability issues is very important. In my scenario, the designer should sit alongside the client; rebuilding his traditional role as project leader.' He adds, 'Project managers are getting nervous, and rightly so. Under these partnering arrangements, the direct relationship between clients and the designers should make project management, per se, a thing of the past. We will all have to reassess what we have to offer.'
Thompson admits that there were conflicts of interest among the team as he expected - predominantly driven by profit and loss considerations - but that these were resolved in discussion during design team meetings with contractor and subcontractors, rather than causing problems on site. Recognising that there is an 'ethical need' for construction processes to be shaken up, Thompson suggests that the M4I process must be backed up with strong legal sanction: 'Unless there is legislation pushing people into the process, nobody will pay attention to it.'
As for the current M4I arrangements, Thompson is cautious: 'I am worried that it will become just another talking shop. The good thing about it is that it shows a willingness to put Egan's report into practice. It helped monitor progress. The problem at the moment is that it is poorly resourced and it is impossible to get hold of anybody'.
Three Rivers Housing Association
STRUCTURAL/ BUILDING SERVICES ENGINEER/ PLANNING SUPERVISOR