As the construction of the Engineering Innovation Centre (EIC) enters its final stages, we caught up with Simon Atkinson, Project Manager at BAM, to get an insight into the EIC’s journey from a vision into a reality.
How are you feeling as the completion of the EIC draws near?
It’s a very exciting time. It’s been great to see the building take shape since work began on site 18 months ago. The project has gone well, with positive feedback received from stakeholders throughout and lots of interest in the work being done. We’re now at full ‘fit out’ mode as we prepare for completion, which means processes such as internal walls, floor finishes, mechanical and electrical installations, ventilation, IT networks and fire alarm systems are taking place. I’m really looking forward to seeing the EIC completed and welcoming students and academics into the building in the new year.
Have you had any particular challenges to overcome?
In terms of logistics and planning, the sheer size of the structure combined with the amount and weight of building materials has been a challenge. For example, we’ve used more than 665 tonnes of steel in the structure, with an additional 40 tonnes of temporary bracings that were needed to keep the structure stable until floor slabs were in place.
We’ve also used 650 precast floor units, each 450mm thick and some weighing more than 10 tonnes. Every single part of the building has been brought on to site on a large truck down Kendal Street which, as anyone familiar with the campus will know, isn’t a large road. When you think about the amount of materials required for a building this size, and the fact a lorry can only carry two precast floor units at a time, you get an understanding of the work that has gone into just getting the materials on site.
With the EIC situated next to the Foster Building, we’re working on a live campus meaning we need to take into consideration that it’s safe for students making their way around the site, while ensuring disruption to studies has been minimal.
Is there anything different about the EIC in comparison to other buildings BAM has worked on?
A particularly innovative and unusual aspect is the use of precast concrete cores which have been used to create the lift shafts and staircases. Usually these would be cast on site using timber shuttering moulds and placing wet concrete, but this is a lot more time consuming, so we opted for the pre-casts. Each one is made off-site and can weigh up to 35 tonnes but with this method we can work much more quickly and efficiently – hugely important in a project of this scale.
Given the specialist nature of the type of engineering equipment which is going to be used in the building, it’s also been imperative for us to work closely with academics from the relevant departments to ensure their requirements are met.
While not especially unique, reducing emissions is always a priority on projects we work on and this has been no different, through the use of energy efficient cabins, appointing a sustainability manager and conducting energy inspections. We’ve also continued our commitment to using local supply chains so spend goes back into the local community and welcomed students onto site for work experience placements. One of the key priorities is to keep local people involved in and informed on the project as much as possible along the way.
What benefits do you see the EIC bringing to Preston?
It will be fantastic for the City to be home to such a modern, innovative building which will be a real hive of activity. It’s going to enhance perspectives of engineering and help promote it, while ensuring UCLan is at the forefront of industry developments. As a nation we’ve always been world leaders in engineering, and the EIC is going to be an integral part of inspiring and supporting new generations of engineers and shaping the future of skills development in that sector. Beyond being a world-class teaching and research facility, it’s going to be a real asset to the City and the people of Preston, as well as Lancashire and the North West as a whole.