- Client: Nikal Developments
- Sectors: Accommodation, Retail
- Value: £74.6m
- Location: Midlands
- Services: Pre-Construction, McAlpine Design Group, Construction
- Completion date: December 2019
From panelled fins and brickwork colonnades to pioneering climbing screens, Exchange Square, Birmingham is filled with feats of engineering excellence.
Phase one of Exchange Square is located in the heart of Birmingham’s business and retail districts.
Forming the first phase of the Masshouse Masterplan, the project transforms Birmingham Skyline providing three PRS residential towers ranging between 12 and 27 storeys. The development is located above a four storey podium providing retail space and a 184 space mezzanine carpark.
Delivered over 37 months with three sectional completions and one month ahead of schedule, Exchange Square benefited from innovative strategies in design, logistics and construction techniques.
The client engaged us initially under a negotiated PCSA and then through a design and build contract to deliver the scheme. Using our established design management processes, we were responsible for taking the design from RIBA Stage 2 through to completion.
Extensive ground remediation
Built on the site of the old Birmingham gyratory, the team’s first challenge was to undertake an extensive 12 week ground remediation programme ahead of construction. Following initial site investigations, supported by McAlpine Design Group, large concrete foundations were identified. Circa 10,000 tonnes of concrete condition was crushed on site and reused for the building’s footprint.
Our remediation strategy saved the client over £2million by on-site crushing, re-use of arisings and changing the design to a ground bearing slab. We worked closely with Birmingham City Council to ensure the contamination on site was found, excavated and exposed of correctly.
Complex logistics and stakeholder management
Occupying a prominent city centre position, the successful delivery of the development required strategic thinking, collaborative planning, and an meticulous approach to logistics and stakeholder management.
The development’s footprint engulfs the tight city centre site with a single access and egress point. A dedicated logistics team, comprising of gatemen and a logistics manager utilised the latest technology to manage ‘just in time’ deliveries. We worked closely with the Local Authority Highways Department to agree and deliver the Section 278 agreement. We obtained the relevant licences and approvals and delivered to the City Council’s to ensure minimal disruption in this busy part of the city centre.
With over 15 complex stakeholder groups including University of Birmingham, Birmingham City Council, Highways, Queen Elizabeth Court and Multiple private tenants occupying adjacent McLaren House, early engagement was crucial to the project’s success.
Façade design excellence
We drew upon the expertise of our inhouse façade experts to evaluate the building’s façade composition and deliver the optimum solution for a multi-faceted development with tight access restrictions.
We opted for a programme efficient structured framing system (SFS) with composite timber clad windows. Post fixing the GRC boarding units enabled the GRC to be fitted after the brickwork was completed resulting in improved quality control of the finished units.
The advantage of the SFS method is that sections are supplied as individual components and can be installed via mast climbing work platforms, thus negating the need for cranes. At peak, 19 mast climbers and 120 drive units were used to provide simultaneous access to the development’s 27 floors.
Increased productivity and safety
A climbing screen was installed to encase the top four storey’s of the tallest tower block. The screen provided superior protection for perimeter safety, offering a safe fall prevention or materials and people. The screen also provided significant programme benefits as it enabled the fit-out contractors to access the weathertight environment eight weeks ahead of programme and provided an 11 week betterment for the external brickwork programme. The concurrent delivery of fit-out and façade works resulted in the project been delivered one month ahead of programme.
Bespoke brickwork colonnades features
The colonnades enclosed a private winter garden used by the residents to admire the Birmingham Skyline. Our team's ability to coordinate the design resulted in impressive detailing on site for what is one of the building’s most notable features.
Eco friendly accents
100 distinctive bespoke vertical fin panels were integrated into the design of the curtain wall. Aesthetically the fins made an important contribution to the look of the building, with the 4m and 5m high fins powder-coated to match the sandstone effect of the project’s GRS cladding. This innovative approach reduced the health and safety risks associated with lifting heavy GRC fins.
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