The newest building on the estate is a 33-storey tower built at high speed by Canary Wharf Contractors. It was responsible for the whole thing from concrete cores to office chairs
One Churchill Place might be Canary Wharf Contractors’ last project in Docklands for a while – Riverside South (page 30) won’t be built until it has a tenant. If so, it’s fitting that CWC has saved the best till last.
The 33-storey building for Barclays is the slickest display of high-rise construction ever witnessed in the UK. As well as constructing the shell and core of the 92,900 m2 tower, CWC was responsible for the fit-out. This led to a healthy – and highly efficient – game of tag as the fit-out and shell-and-core teams chased each other up and around the building.
Eugenio Caruso, CWC’s director of tenant fit-out, explains: “In a lot of instances, we were there before the shell-and-core guys. Normally, you get bits of ductwork, pipework and sprinklers sticking out of the core waiting to be connected up by the fit-out guys. Quite often on Barclays, we had our services fitted before the shell-and-core teams arrived and this made any co-ordination issues go away.”
Such joined-up working meant the project took just two-and-a-half years from the start of the tendering process to practical completion of the building. In addition, even though the contractors doing the Category A fit-out (including ceiling, raised floors, lighting, air-conditioning, underfloor power, carpets and sprinklers) couldn’t begin work until the shell-and-core team had started reaching for the sky, both sets of contractors achieved practical completion at the same time: October 2004. The scheduled handover date was 31 December 2004, the furniture fit-out was completed earlier this year and Barclays staff are now relocating.
Caruso was involved in the first phase of the estate’s development in the late 1980s, but went to work on projects in the City of London in 1992. He returned to the wharf nine years ago to launch CWC’s fit-out division, armed with the knowledge of how other developers tackled the task. “Quite often, shell-and-core connections were either not there, the wrong size or in the wrong place. The way we did it here got away from all those problems. And you can commission the systems as a whole.”
On One Churchill Place, Caruso headed a team managing the entire fit-out. This included 60,400 m2 of Category A fit-out, 18,600 m2 of Category B (special areas such as staff restaurant, coffee bar, break-out areas, executive rooms, client meeting rooms and auditoria) and the tenant’s furniture fit-out, which includes some 5500 workstations. Caruso says: “Usually, we get involved with the furniture but not actually with procuring it. This is pretty much the only one we’ve done from shell and core to bums on seats.”
Fit for anything
Since starting its first tenant fit-out about six years ago, CWC has completed almost 600,000 m2 – more than many contractors would tackle in a lifetime. And it shows in the seamless way all the trades interact.
This is pretty much the only building we’ve done from shell and core to bums on seats
Caruso says: “As soon as the steel was up, the fire-spray was on and the floor cast, we were putting in services. After the cladding was up, we’d be putting in ductwork for the VAV [variable air volume] air-conditioning, sprinklers, traywork – anything we could where there was no risk of water damage.
“The biggest pinch point we have is with the cladding contractors because they have to load out the floors with their panels. They can install faster than we can, so we will drop down below or go up above.”
Senior project manager Alec Vallintine adds: “On the HSBC building, we always knew they would catch up. So when they did, we shot up 10 floors and then shot back down nine floors once they were clear.”
To assess how fast the fit-out could progress before letting contracts, the team spent a lot of time figuring out the best way to do the job, and how many workers would be needed. Vallintine explains: “When we tender the work, we ask the contractor to supply its own labour plan so we can compare it with ours and even out the resources – you don’t want 10 men one week and 50 the next. Success is all about pre-planning.”
Caruso says: “The key was maintaining momentum.
If anyone lagged behind, it would all fall apart.”
To stop this happening, a sound logistics package feeding into the programme was developed. Vallintine says: “Access to floor space was dictated by a programme dovetailed into the shell-and-core programme. It was give and take on both sides.
“In terms of logistics, contractors had to book in, giving 48 hours’ notice of where they wanted to work. We held weekly logistics meetings with all contractors and allocated very tightly controlled times and areas in which they could work.”
We ask the contractor to supply its own labour plan so we can compare it with ours and even out the resources – you don’t want 10 men one week and 50 the next. Success is all about pre-planning
This process was co-ordinated by a five-strong logistics team using the software program Team Plan. All design and workshop drawings were logged by the Humming Bird computer system, which also handled communications with consultants, approvals and comments.
As a result, says Vallintine, “most of the logistics time during the day was taken up by crane pick-ups for the shell and core, so we did all of our deliveries out-of-hours. We were working 24 hours a day.”
Caruso adds: “The trades liked it, because it was quieter, they got their slots, and it was a lot easier for them to maintain progress.”
Coping with the unexpected
A just-in-time delivery schedule was adopted and materials were stockpiled off-site so there was always sufficient for at least one floor. The latter policy meant unforeseen problems such as ferries not running, truck drivers’ strikes or manufacturing hiccups didn’t stop the metronomic progress of the fit-out.
To minimise snagging, one of the lower floors was chosen as a benchmark that met all of CWC’s and Barclays’ quality and performance standards.
“We got everyone, including the architect and all the engineers, to agree it was the benchmark. We then drove that benchmark up the building,” says Caruso.
He and Vallintine reckon running the fit-out in parallel with the shell and core saved about one year on the programme. However, neither thinks the speedy construction is particularly impressive. Vallintine says: “Barclays is just a culmination of the process we have been going through for the past five years. It seemed like second nature.”
WHARFpeople - Dean Ricci
There can’t have been many people better qualified to oversee construction of One Churchill Place than Dean Ricci. He trained as a mechanical engineer and worked for the power and refinery industries before coming to Canary Wharf in 1988 to spend three years “working horizontally” on the infrastructure for the first phase.
In 1991, he left to work on a variety of projects including the Disneyland Paris theme park; environmental clean-ups and office fit-outs in New York; infrastructure works and a residential building for entrepreneur Donald Trump; and the Venetian casino/hotel in Las Vegas.
In 1999, Ricci rejoined CWC as construction director. “Now I work vertical,” he says of his involvement on One Churchill Place, the 44-storey tower at 25-30 Canada Square and 20 Canada Square.
Ricci has a phrase he likes to use when describing what CWC expects from its trade contractors. It is: “We challenge everyone to do better with us than they have ever done before.”
Despite the fantastic speed at which One Churchill Place was built, Ricci observes: “Things can always be done better, but almost every initiative we tried there worked to at least a 80% to 90% satisfaction level. Perhaps we could have made an earlier start on the lifts despite the fact the lifts were completed quicker than anyone has ever done before.
“There are still opportunities to improve. We have to challenge ourselves.”
One of the keys to success on the project was empowering trade contractors to take responsibility for some of the “grey areas” where their work interfaces with other trades. One such example was making lift contractor Schindler responsible for all work inside the lift motor rooms. Ricci explains: “This was consciously done to make contractors responsible not only for meeting their contractual obligations and dates, but also for co-ordinating with others. That way you eliminate excuses and people saying: ‘Can I do this, can I do that?’ The contractor is totally responsible and you get quicker performance because the contractor takes ownership.”
Another example was giving free rein to concrete core contractor PC Harrington over the use of the cranes, but with the stipulation that it co-ordinated with other trades and allocated certain times for their use. “With Harrington, we didn’t try to control the cranes. We said: ‘They are your cranes, but you have to provide us with this number of hours for others’ – so that they could drop in stairs, risers and so on.”
A quick start was also made on the toilet blocks by adopting a novel approach towards building a mock-up of the finishes. With the agreement of all the relevant trades, a mock-up of a toilet block was built on the first floor of One Churchill Place – with the understanding that it would remain as the finished article if quality standards were met.
“We thought let’s get in and actually do the real work and only rip it out if it wasn’t good enough,” says Ricci.
The standards were met, giving contractor Sherlock a good head start on its programme for the rest of the toilet blocks.
Ricci is equally proud of meeting the 250-plus critical dates set for the project. “These were mostly design-related such as approval of finishes – the stuff that controls your ability to complete the job. All the dates were met.”
He adds: “I suppose the crucial thing on the project was we had the right people at the right time and we picked the right trade contractors.”
First time for everything
While the fit-out workers were racing up the building, the shell-and-core team was involved in a race of its own. To speed up construction, CWC incorporated techniques that had never been used in the UK.
Take the construction of the building’s three cores. The central core housing the lifts, risers for the services and emergency staircases was the biggest built using slip-form concrete construction.
Originally, CWC and concrete contractor PC Harrington envisaged slip-forming only three walls for the lift shafts in the central core with the fourth, which houses the doorways, constructed from plasterboard. Instead, the wall was cast in concrete, thereby eliminating the need for an extra trade contractor to install the dry-wall.
Much time was also saved on lift installation by directing Harrington to implement ideas such as constructing the internal lift lobby floor slabs while the cores were being raised (“On the up and up”, page 36).
Another innovative twist was designing the slip-form rig with hatches through which the steel staircases could be craned into position, easing access between the floors and lessening the dependency on passenger hoists. Hatches were also used to lower 12 m lengths of steel pipe for the services risers.
When it came to erecting the steelwork, CWC decided to delay the start until after PC Harrington had completed the three cores and the cranes feeding the slip-form rig had been removed and replaced by others anchored to the top of the cores.
Getting rid of the slip-form cranes gave steelwork contractor Victor Buyck-Hollandia a clear run to fix the 10,000 tonnes of steelwork and floor decking.
It meant the erectors didn’t have to work around ties securing the cranes to the cores or were not able to complete the decking in areas where the masts of the cranes passed through the floors.
It was also safer because no concrete operations were going on above the steel erectors.
Picking up speed
CWC construction director Dean Ricci says the fast construction of the shell and core at One Churchill Place was helped along by a number of lessons the contractor has learned over the years at the wharf. These include:
- Early and simultaneous procurement of the concrete, lifts, stairs, steelwork and crane packages so that all the installation works can be co-ordinated and crane times agreed
- Concrete cores designed to suit slip-form construction with great care given to detailing openings for services
- Steelwork designed and detailed to allow for tolerances in the verticality of the concrete cores
- Slip-form rigs incorporated a double-height trailing platform to make welding of steelwork connections easier
- Access around the cores improved by providing additional temporary openings, which were subsequently blocked up
- Phased release of lift shafts to allow early start on fitting guide rails and door mechanisms for lifts.
WHARFpeople - Terry Stewart
Every now and again, Terry Stewart’s soft Northern Ireland accent gives way to a slight American twang. It’s hardly surprising since he has spent 20 years, on and off, working in the USA and Canada.
The experience has given him good insight into the way construction is tackled on both sides of the Atlantic. Of One Churchill Place, Stewart says: “The speed of construction and quality were incredible.
It only took two-and-a-half years from the start of the tender process to practical completion and that was for a 92,900 m2 building.”
Stewart has been at CWC for the past seven years, honing the design and installation of mechanical services. “We try to get involved in the design stage as early as possible where we’re primarily looking at buildability – tweaking the design, such as deciding where the risers should go and when they should be installed.”
Much effort also goes into deciding on the level of prefabrication to use. “Prefabrication is nothing new. The mechanical services industry has been using it for 50 years. It is how you use prefabrication to your best advantage that counts,” he says.
On Barclays, CWC worked closely with concrete core contractor PC Harrington to streamline the installation of the condenser and chilled water risers. Sleeves were cast into the concrete floor slabs so that the risers – 12 m lengths of steel tube – could be lowered through them to join up with previously installed risers. This cut down on the number of field welds required to join the three-storey high risers together. Oversized sleeves were used so that the tolerance in aligning the risers wasn’t an issue. Stewart says: “It was a case of drop and weld, drop and weld and it worked fantastically well.”
It also meant trade contractors could make an early start on installing the mechanical services within the building.
Much of the equipment for the plant rooms was also prefabricated so that most of the joints were bolt, not weld, connections. “You are always going to have some field welds, but if you can lessen the number, then you will gain improvements in programme and cost.”
With ever more services being squeezed into the buildings, CWC took the step of integrating all the mechanical and services contractors by setting up a combined CAD office on site. In it, the contractors prepared their workshop drawings under the gaze of senior CWC staff.
Integrating the teams led to quick resolution of any design issues with the services engineers, as well as identifying problems where the positions of different services might clash.
Having all the M&E contractors’ design staff under one roof also helped to prevent any slippage in the workshop drawing programme.
Stewart explains: “I’ve found that most contractors underestimate the time required to prepare workshop drawings. If they miss the dates on the programme, it affects the other trades. The combined CAD office was invaluable – it was a great tool.”
WHARFpeople - Trevor McAlea
Trevor McAlea plied his trade with electrical contractors T Clarke and Phoenix for 17 years, rising to work as Phoenix’s senior contracts manager on 25 The North Colonnade, the Financial Services Authority building, and One Cabot Square, for Credit Suisse, at Canary Wharf.
“I needed to be quite forceful during the meetings on the FSA contract and I was always pushing the consultant for details because we would fall behind programme if we didn’t get them,” he recalls. McAlea thinks it was this trait that led Canary Wharf Contractors to ask him if he wanted to switch sides.
That was five-and-a-half years ago. “I enjoy wearing two hats. Good project managers can see both sides of an argument and can recognise all the potential pitfalls. Trade contractors can sometimes get too entrenched with what they do only and don’t look at the bigger picture. You need someone with a trade contractor background to challenge this culture and say: ‘Why don’t we do it this way?’. ”
McAlea sees his role as taking an overview and “making electrical contractors aware of the other trades and how they need co-ordinate their work to suit”. He must also review the design constantly.McAlea knows how electricians work, what is achievable and how long it should take. With his CWC hat on, he can tailor the electrical contractors’ requirements around those of the other trades.
“You need to get the trades up to speed in the first six to eight weeks of a contract,” he says. “That is when time is won or lost.”
Equally important, he says, is ensuring the works programme, planning, logistics and the drawings schedule are spot on. The key is “preparing good, detailed tender documents with no hidden agendas” so contractors know what to expect. “We also advise contractors during the tender process how long they should allow for things like integrated system testing, so they can price accordingly.”
McAlea has boosted productivity by giving trade contractors early access to the electrical risers and switchrooms. It started on 8 Canada Square and continued at One Churchill Place, where temporary waterproof and crash decking was installed every sixth floor. This meant the electrical risers were watertight and could be fitted out safely as the building rose. When the 44-storey tower was topped out, work on the risers had reached the 39th floor. As McAlea says: “It worked very well.”