15th December 2022

Project Update: One Centenary Way, Birmingham

As the construction of One Centenary Way, a major new landmark commercial building in the heart of Birmingham, nears completion, we catch up with members of the site team to look back at some of the project's many complexities.

Designed by Glenn Howells Architects, with engineering input from Arup, One Centenary Way is a 13 storey, 280,000 sq ft commercial building with ground floor retail space.

The scheme forms part of the £1.2bn mixed use Paradise Birmingham development and is just one of the live projects in this area.

Just a few weeks before completion, One Centenary Way is a hive of activity, with over 300 people working hard to complete the programme of works for client, MEPC.

Engineering excellence

As Project Director, Stuart Bale explains, this project is like no other, boasting many bespoke challenges. For instance, the steel exoskeleton, which gives the building its unique look and provides vertical and lateral stability to the structure, is a design solution resulting from the need to construct above the A38 Queensway tunnel, which has remained operational throughout.

The Vierendeel exoskeleton frame is one of the project’s most prominent features, which means we have 250 individual penetrations through the façade and each of those has been designed as a bespoke solution to accommodate the movement and tolerance of this building. Because the whole building is founded on steel trusses, there's a phenomenal amount of movement in the building. As a result, every element of the construction had to be designed to accommodate this movement.

Stuart Bale Project Director, Sir Robert McAlpine

The building’s foundations incorporate a series of huge transfer trusses weighing a total of around 1,156 tonnes. Transporting and installing these colossal structural components was another significant challenge on this project.

“We have 16 trusses in total. They are amongst the largest ever designed and constructed in the region for a commercial building and were fabricated at a specially expanded factory in Scotland before being transported to site by road in one piece”, recalls Stuart.

We called upon the in-house expertise of McAlpine Design Group and McAlpine Lifting Solutions to facilitate this element of the works as careful planning was needed.

A 1,200-tonne mobile crane, one of the largest operating in the UK, was erected to install the trusses, the largest of which were 35m long, 6m wide and weighed 120 tonnes. Once in place, the trusses transfer the load of the floorplates and the façade either side of the tunnel. The team were then able to focus on the podium slab which provides a podium for the office building to sit on.  

Green energy

The project team at One Centenary Way took part in the recent Kettering trials with JCB and were the first site to test the electric telehandler and hybrid lighting systems. 

Sustainable plant also features on the roof which fuels the building with sustainable electric power, providing heating and hot water for its future tenants Goldman Sachs and Arup.

A quality finish

As the team presses on for the final weeks of programme, the focus is on the internal fit out and quality. Emma Pay, Package Engineer, who manages the reception area works said: 

“I look after multiple packages so this stage of the project involves managing the coordination of different trades, ensuring that everyone is on track with the programme of works and the quality of finishes is good against drawings and specifications.” 

“As we approach the finishing line of the project, we are all now turning our attention to ensure we deliver a quality product. The client and their tenants have the highest expectations when it comes to quality, and this is something we are striving to achieve and more in the finished building,” added Stuart.


Project spotlight: One Centenary Way

Meet the team behind the scenes at One Centenary Way

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