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Construction Manager of the Year 2018: Restoration

25 October 2018

Gold winner: Darlington Hippodrome and Theatre Hullabaloo (Image: Tom McGuire)

GOLD: Sean McNicholas MCIOB - Willmott Dixon

Project: Darlington Hippodrome and Theatre Hullabaloo

Project outline: Refurbishment of grade II-listed Edwardian theatre and auditorium expansion (from 850 seats to 1,012), along with the design and construction of a linked 150-seat children’s theatre. Completed in 75 weeks.

Contract: NEC 3 option A

Value: Tender £12m, final contract £14m

The major challenge for Sean McNicholas on this theatre refurbishment was the auditorium expansion, which had to be delivered in the shortest window possible – live shows continued until the day before the contract started and the panto season was to open the day following completion.

The work also involved fitting in more seats – which were also wider and offered more legroom and a clear line of sight – without increasing the overall size of the space. McNicholas managed this by improving the gradient and inserting a steel cantilevered structure to replace two 400mm-thick concrete walls that supported the royal boxes.

The project was £300,000 over budget at the design stage so value engineering was an essential. McNicholas maintained high-quality finishes for front of house, such as gold leaf decoration for the balcony fronts, while backstage corridors had their planned ceilings removed and their walls built as fair-faced blockwork without plastering.

The building had undergone numerous changes since its original construction in 1907, with unexpected problems lurking behind every corner which demanded repeated activity resequencing. Despite this, McNicholas delivered the project defect-free to a revised programme one week earlier than originally planned.

SILVER: Matthew Coleman MCIOB - Osborne

Silver winner: Hackney Town Hall, London

Project: Hackney Town Hall, London

Project outline: Fourth and final phase of a six-year programme to modernise a grade II-listed art deco building, which remained in occupation throughout. Comprehensive M&E modernisation, extensive structural alterations and a complete reroofing. Completed in 133 weeks.

Contract: NEC 3

Value: Tender £5m, final contract £15m

The tripling of the value of this contract between tender and final account reflects a project that underwent immense design change. Matthew Coleman’s close relationships with the architect and structural engineer meant design resolutions for restoration of the art deco Hackney Town Hall could be agreed on the spot to avoid delays.

Other finalists

Jason Bamford MCIOB, Interserve - Printworks Campus, Leeds
Ruth Wells MCIOB, Ridge - Coombe Cliff Conservatory, Forest Hill

He also brought his own innovative design ideas as work progressed, including transforming empty basements into space for catering facilities, an electricity substation and print rooms, possible through a reduced-level dig for the two new atriums.

The original ETFE roof design was to span the width of both atriums and the roof of the council chamber, which would require a huge and expensive structural engineering solution. Coleman proposed a less intrusive ETFE roof, with the same thermal performance and visual identity, but quicker to install and easier to maintain.

By rationalising the design of the concrete ring beams, the roof of each atrium could be independent rather than span both courtyards, which also reduced the transfer load to the existing building. This saved 10 weeks on the programme as well as considerable cost.

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