Tag Archives: University of Nottingham

Major building fire in Nottingham. Industry impact

Last Friday evening news started to break of a large fire at the University of Nottingham’s Jubilee campus. News broadcasters and social media channels were streaming live images of a major incident unfolding. Thankfully nobody was hurt. However the fire it seems was a significant one. It completely destroyed the new £15m GlaxoSmithKline building which was around 70% built by Morgan Sindall.

Jubilee Campus Fire 2014
I know the University quite well having led the design and delivery of two new-build projects in the past, one of which is on the Jubilee campus. I was last down there just a few months ago for a meeting and saw this building emerging.

The proposal for the GSK building was innovative and placed a substantial emphasis on sustainability. The laboratory building was intended to be carbon-neutral over its lifetime and also targeted BREEAM ‘Oustanding’.

The fire investigations will hopefully reveal both the cause of the fire and why the damage was so total in terms of destruction. But one thing we do know is that the building had a structural timber frame, as oppose to more traditional steel/ concrete methods.

GSK University of Nottingham Fire
The use of timber in buildings has increased a lot in recent years, mainly due to its ‘green’ credentials. In simple terms; trees can be re-planted, whereas the environmental damage imposed by Steel and Concrete production are much greater. However, timber is also a solid fuel for fires and therefore risks are increased when using the material  in construction, especially where the full fire protection strategy isn’t fully in place (protection to structure, compartmentation of the building, sprinkler systems etc).

As it happens I worked on a timber framed student accommodation development with the University out at their Sutton Bonington campus a few years back. When we did this, we had to ensure that robust life safety evacuation procedures were in place during the build at all times, meaning more temporary escape stairs were formed on the building.

There have been mixed views in the construction industry for sometime now about the use of timber framed buildings, specifically in relation to fire risk and associated insurances. In July 2006 a six-storey apartment block in Colindale, North London caught fire during construction and the structure collapsed in less than nine minutes.

The fire last week is a setback for the University and I wish the teams involved in rebuilding this project the very best. But I strongly suspect the risks/ issues around using timber framed buildings will resurface within the industry, sooner rather than later. Clients, Construction firms and insurance companies will once again focus on whether timber framed buildings really are sustainable? – in more ways than one of course.

UoN Fire VC Blog


Turning a corner…

A few people have commented recently that my blog has gone quiet, so I thought I’d give a brief update on what I’ve been rather consumed in recently…

We have been very busy over the last couple of months. From our own experience, and from talking to people in the Construction sector generally, it seems that there is a tangible increase in confidence. We are currently seeing a surge of opportunities which we’re involved in. I genuinely hope that this is a strong indication of a more sustained outlook after five somewhat challenging years!

During September we completed a number of student living developments taking our total count of bedrooms designed and delivered to over 13,000! In Birmingham we completed Phase 2 of our Aston Student Village project, on-campus at Aston University with Bam Construction.  Down in Colchester we completed the first phase of the Meadows project which is a new part of an expanding campus at the University of Essex, this was a PPP deal with ULiving (a consortium between Bouygues Development , Bouygues Construction and Derwent FM). Up in Scotland we have also completed phase 1 of a campus redevelopment for the University of Stirling with Graham Construction. We have very recently been bidding for another substantial student living scheme in the North West. We are up against some high profile competition on this scheme. Meanwhile our Crown Place project for the University of Liverpool is continuing at pace for a completion next summer. You can view this project live via the project webcam, click here.

Led by our London office we have recently secured a Planning Approval for a large mixed-use development at Redhill station in Surrey (see image below). Our client is Solum Regeneration (a JV between Network Rail and Kier Investments). The project includes 150 residential apartments, a food store, a multi-storey car park and a new train station entrance building. We are also working on a number of other high-end residential projects in central London.

Redhill1Our Retail team have been very busy recently with a number of clients, including our longest standing client; M&S. This is our 91st year working with M&S! Up in Northwich we are nearing completion on a new-build Waitrose Store with H2O and Russells Construction. This project is part of a mixed-use Marina development.

Our Si Yuan building at the University of Nottingham recently picked up a prestigious award at the ‘Insider East Midlands Property Dinner’.

Judges Special AwardSituated on the university’s Jubilee Campus, the project was shortlisted in a number of categories at the region’s annual awards.  Announcing the award, judges said

“We felt this iconic development was worthy of a special mention. Repeatedly shortlisted, it scored so highly in so many categories – development, regeneration, sustainability design – that it was felt that this remarkable building and all those involved in it merited real praise and recognition. An unprecedented building deserved an unprecedented award.”

We worked with the University of Nottingham, GF Tomlinson, Gleeds and a number of other consultants on this scheme. We won this project through a design competition and I’ve still got one of my original sketches for this scheme on my desk.

Our team in Mumbai remain busy and have been bidding on a number of new projects, including a major convention centre. In September our team moved into new offices which are more centrally located with strong transport connections. Our international links are expanding with a number of active links with companies in Europe, America, Russia, Australia and the Middle East. We will be attending Mipim again next spring in Cannes. I will be part of the Invest in Nottingham delegation for 2014. I’ve supporting this great team of people for the last two years whilst over at Mipim, but I’m really pleased to be a formal part of the team next year.

So positive signs are definitely out there and I hope we can continue to build on our recent successes and emerging opportunities…