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Operating an essential site during uncertain times


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As an industry, construction is resilient and never has this been more apparent than in our collective response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, with partners across the supply chain going above and beyond to keep sites operational and progressing at pace.

John Carlin, Regional Managing Director at Wates Construction, explores how new ways of working are helping to deliver one of the Midlands’ most challenging and important projects.

"I have been in the construction business for a long time, and I don’t think I have ever worked on a project that somebody didn’t consider essential.

From our perspective, there is a business imperative attached to every project of course but they also represent so much more than that.

A construction project is a huge undertaking and is often the realisation of the hopes and dreams of a whole team of people who have toiled for years before the first shovel gets anywhere near the ground. Also, every project, big or small, has the potential to be transformational and to create a legacy that will change people’s lives.

Delivering successful construction projects is rarely a matter of life and death, but it should never be underestimated how critical they are to the people behind them and, just as equally importantly, to the people who will benefit from them in the future.

Discover how Wates Construction's team has implemented new ways of working on-site at the Nottingham College City Hub in this video, featuring an introductory message from Chief Executive of Nottingham College, John van de Laarschot.

Adapting to a new world

Keeping our sites and staff safe is a responsibility we take incredibly seriously at Wates and one that weighed heavily when the current crisis began to take hold during those increasingly uncertain weeks in March of this year.

Along with many other businesses in the country, when the lockdown was announced, we had no choice but to close our sites. In those two days that the sites were closed, our teams were working around the clock, adapting and evolving processes so that we could re-open the sites while ensuring the safety and wellbeing of everybody involved.

In normal times, every site offers different challenges that have to be overcome, all of which were then exacerbated by the new restrictions and the more complex the project, the more innovative our teams have had to be to get the project running again.

It’s been fantastic to see everybody involved with the project come together during these uncertain times. As we look towards a sustainable recovery from the current crisis, projects like the Nottingham City Hub are vital to ensure that opportunities to support and nurture the younger generation and their communities remain firmly in place.

Mark Robinson

SCAPE chief executive

Nottingham City Hub - a transformational facility

One of the most challenging – and important – projects we are currently delivering through SCAPE in the Midlands is the Nottingham City Hub, a major new education and community facility that will transform a previously neglected city centre district and provide a multi-functional space to stimulate learning, innovation and collaboration.

Surrounded on four sides by a main arterial route, residential developments, tram lines and a cliff edge, there have been numerous obstacles to overcome throughout this project. This meant that everyone involved has had to really go the extra mile to ensure the project remained on track throughout this period.

From ensuring that all colleagues, sub-contractors and suppliers could actually get to the site to implementing social distancing measures and the difficulty in obtaining materials during lockdown, the team has been exceptional. In fact, across our sites we have found that not only have our teams found a way to take projects forward, some have found new, more efficient approaches to operational delivery.

Driving innovation through the supply chain

Indeed, we are seeing great innovation where the supply chain is adapting to new ways of working to combat the challenges of social distancing, introducing mechanical solutions for tasks like the installation of glazed balustrades, allowing for the extra manpower to be preparing rather than helping with the installation itself.

All of this fantastic work means that the project remains on target for completion at the beginning of October. This will see us deliver a vision that will not only change the city scape in this part of Nottingham, but provide a real legacy for many years to come that goes beyond this fantastic building itself - something I would definitely describe as essential.

The state-of-the-art project is being procured through Major Works – UK, a part of the SCAPE National Construction framework. The framework has been specifically designed to deliver significant levels of local economic engagement, ongoing apprenticeship schemes and extensive community initiatives.

Our team has shown that even in the face of unimaginable challenges, we are quick to adapt and committed to keeping projects on track, so that they deliver the successful, long-term outcomes our communities deserve.

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