The Mount Oswald Student Accommodation project for Durham University and its partners Campus Living Villages and Equitix with Interserve Construction as Main Contractor has proved to be an excellent example of the use of PCE Ltd’s HybriDfMA Living Systems approach for providing the 5 new, 4 storey accommodation buildings.
The quality of the built environment and the sensitivity of the surrounding architecture were fundamental drivers for the University, its partners and local Planners. The aspiration was to mix Georgian architecture with contemporary design to create a link between the existing student accommodation in Durham and the newer, more recently constructed modern University Buildings. The need for an exceptionally durable construction solution with inherent structural performance, air tightness, fire resistance, quality, particularly over the lifecycle of the buildings, were all important selection criteria that were easily satisfied by PCE’s ‘kit of parts’ approach with the use of precast concrete components when compared to other potential solutions.
Interserve Construction also chose PCE as its ideal partner due to the company’s reputation for successfully delivering large scale, logistically complex student accommodation schemes such as East Side Locks in Birmingham and Bath Spa University, coupled with the ability to mobilise an extensive supply chain to deliver at speed the high quality required with underlying value. With a structural contract package for the five accommodation buildings being awarded to PCE in excess of £18million, the PCE team’s passion, enthusiasm, commitment and determination, aligned perfectly with the needs of the project. The company’s flexibility and constant drive for innovation enabled the wider project team to collaboratively develop a high quality, repetitious predictable solution for fast project delivery. PCE worked closely with Interserve Construction and Willmore Isles Architects, during the preconstruction phase, using their unique linked Digital processes for design and overall project control to develop a scheme which maximised the benefits of offsite construction and could be predictably and safely delivered during the construction phase. David Dixon, Contracts Manager for Interserve Construction stated: "PCE in all their dealings with my team here on Mount Oswald have been professional and courteous, their Health & Safety standards were exemplary, and quality of their precast concrete solution was excellent."
An innovative precast concrete ground beam solution was developed, ‘socketing’ directly onto the pile tops, eliminating the need for forming any pile caps. This enabled the foundations above pile top level for each of the buildings to be completely manufactured under factory-controlled conditions away from site before being assembled on site in under a week for each building. The superstructure above foundations was configured using PCE’s HybriDfMA Living System kit of parts including for all floor and roof unit components, primary walls between bedrooms, stair cores, lift shafts, stairs, landings, and composite façade panels. The precast concrete floor units were cast with high quality finishes and integrated M&E containment allowing the soffit to be painted directly removing the need for suspended ceilings and the upper surface suitable to receive direct application of floor finishes, removing the need for any structural or levelling screeds thus minimising the risk of drying times. The internal precast concrete crosswall panels were cast vertically in Battery Moulds, ensuring that both sides of the wall components were suitable for paint to be applied directly, removing the need for additional finishes such as plasterboard and associated trades. The composite façade panels were of sandwich construction, comprising an internal structural leaf of precast reinforced concrete, an insulative core, and an outer thinner leaf of precast concrete which either had cut bricks bonded into it as part of the casting process, or was formed with a decorative, patterned, reconstructed stone finish, the three leaves being structurally connected during the casting process to form one unit for delivery to site.
The façade panel construction process also enabled all the windows to be preinstalled offsite at the manufacturing factory, thus removing the need for any scaffolding, on site trades such as bricklayers and window installers and significantly reducing the need for operatives to work at height. This approach enabled concurrent construction of the superstructures and façades creating near instantaneous weathertight building shells without the need for any further works to the building facades. This high performance and quality façade construction solution provides the excellent air tightness, inherent fire resistance, acoustic attenuation, thermal performance and long-term durability requirements of the design requirement brief. and the inner ‘structural skin’ of concrete was again suitable for direct paint application.
It took just 60 weeks from receipt of order by PCE to structural completion handover of the last block. In total over 700 rooms were constructed during a 40-week on-site construction programme by PCE’s specialist in-house multi-disciplinary site team operatives who assembled the 5,250 precast concrete elements along with 712 prefabricated bathroom pods. The works were executed with an average of only 35 of PCE’s highly skilled operatives who completed the project in just over 70,000 on-site man hours, took receipt of the 1,800 plus component delivery vehicles and constructed in excess of 26,000 tonnes of offsite manufactured concrete components without any Health and Safety incidents.