Queen’s University Student Centre, One Elmwood

FOH offers a home away from home for QUB students…

Principal contractor, Felix O’Hare (FOH) delivered the impressive Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) Student Centre project, known as One

The 11,000sqm of flexible space houses the Students’ Union bars, a Spar shop, cafe and Student Services along with Mandela Hall, a multi-purpose music and
events venue. Prior to construction FOH completed the enabling works which saw the
demolition of the existing QUB students’ union building within a conservation area (originally opened in 1967). The enabling works comprised site boundary establishment, demolition and the design, supply, and installation of heating main diversions.

The existing QUB Students Union building was enclosed on three sides by busy road networks with the fourth elevation enclosed by Queens University existing ELTC and NIE buildings. This was challenging as only one access and egress point served the
site. FOH was appointed by QUB to complete a pre-construction service which involved the management and full delivery of RIBA stage 4 technical design with the QUB design team, resulting with a construction-ready project to an agreed target cost sum.

This approach ensured that QUB had an active engagement throughout the delivery process. “Stage 4 was a significant challenge,” said Paul Maginn, Design Manager and Contracts Manager, “which involved end user engagement, building control continual reviews, fully co-ordinated technical design, design delivery in excess of 100 architectural packages plus all other design packages whilst in parallel agreeing Value Engineered solutions with the client team to assist the target cost objective / forecast. We led every meeting, produced and managed each micro-programme to ensure the readiness of all design information for tender release.”

FOH managed the tender process for the client and was responsible for producing tender reports for each package. The firm also took on the role of Information Manager and delivered this BIM level 2 project. “The timeline for the construction of this new multifaceted iconic project was extremely ambitious and it was critical that we produced and monitored a detailed programme from the outset,” explained Paul. “Early procurement was vital, and we front-loaded the release and approval process of all technical submittals and samples. In parallel to this and the works progressing on site we had the added challenge to obtain the client brief, provide design detail and obtain approval for many provisional sum elements. Management and delivery of the provisional sum element was critical, and it weighed heavily on our supply / subcontractor chain and site resources to complete within the timeline, however this was achieved.”

Brexit (January 31, 2020), provided further challenges. “At this stage we were five months into the new build construction and uncertainty in the marketplace was established and very concerning,” said Paul. Both Covid and Brexit brought procurement difficulties through rising material costs and extensive material lead-in times. “It was vital that we provided our supply chain with every opportunity to get their teams focused to work around these obstacles,’ he said. “Orders were front-loaded, subcontractor design was accelerated, programmes were re-sequenced to accommodate material delays but whilst maintaining critical path. However, with meticulous accurate pre-planning we made this achievable and delivered within the original timeframe.”

Commenting on the completed project, Paul was full of praise for the design and build team. “We had a strong team of conscientious people and that played to the strength of the project. We also had a great team on the ground led by Gary Lennon, Site Manager and the digital construction input was vital to delivering this project so efficiently.”

For the full feature on QUB, check out NIBuilder issue 33-6 Dec-Jan here

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