In June 2017, Mike Galloway, Executive Director of City Development at Dundee City Council, told the BBC: "V&A Dundee is an impressive feat of engineering. Nothing like this has ever been constructed in Scotland before. In fact, I can't think of another building anywhere in the world similar to this.”
His comment sums up the technical construction achievement that this stunning building represents.
For BAM, this milestone project was only possible thanks to the use of digital 3D modelling. Being able to access this model on site, via tablets, helped to ensure that each element of the building frame was set out to millimetre-perfect tolerances. Nothing less would have successfully delivered Scotland’s flagship cultural construction project.
Building in dry dock
The striking design also requires the museum building to seemingly balance, un-propped, over the River Tay. To achieve this, BAM created a cofferdam: a temporary structure that retains water and soil, allowing the enclosed area to be pumped out and excavated dry.
This allowed the team to build a temporary access road around the building as well as to put up temporary structures to prop the building up until the complex frame was complete.
“A cofferdam is an unusual structure as it lies in water,” explains BAM Scotland’s Construction Director, Jim Ward. “We inserted 620 temporary piles into the riverbed, which allowed us to temporarily reclaim a section of the river to construct the foundation section of the building.
“The cofferdam also provided a platform to construct the concrete frame at an angle, to create the distinctive overhang and attach the perimeter precast on the side of the building. Once the works were complete, we removed the cofferdam and reflooded the river up to the building.”
I am impressed by BAM's commitment to create as many opportunities as possible for local firms and individuals to benefit from this transformational project.” David Martin, Chief Executive, Dundee City Council
History in a comic strip
Reflecting Dundee’s unique position as the home of publisher DC Thomson – whose creations include Dennis the Menace, Desperate Dan, Minnie the Minx and the Bash Street Kids – BAM chose to feature a 150-metre long comic book strip on the hoardings surrounding the construction site.
Comic illustrator Will Morris and graphic designer David Mackenzie were commissioned to design the giant comic strip. Called Adventures in Design, it told the story of the contribution of design to everyday life, featuring such Scottish designs as the Falkirk Wheel and Harris Tweed.
V&A Dundee Marketing & Communications manager Tara Wainwright explains the significance of the commission: “Comic illustration is such an integral part of Dundee’s creative history that we immediately understood the appeal for local audiences.”
Local economic benefits
At the start of the project, BAM organised a successful ‘Meet the buyer’ day with Dundee Council to recruit a local workforce.
127 attendees heard from Malcolm Boyd, BAM Construction Manager: “The V&A Dundee project is part of the wider regeneration of Dundee’s waterfront and we want the project to have a positive and far reaching local impact.” he said. “By employing local subcontractors, BAM is helping to create local jobs and boost the economy.”
The team has succeeded in its target of employing around a dozen people from the Dundee area new into the industry and has averaged 56% local labour on site.
V&A Dundee, virtual fly-through video