Careful planning and a willingness to learn from specialists inside and outside the company has helped BAM get ahead of programme on a challenging job in Yorkshire.

BAM Construction is delivering the £27m Huddersfield Leisure Centre for Kirklees Council after winning the project competitively through the YORbuild framework.

The centre will contain a family leisure pool, a competition pool, a training pool, a 1,000 sq m gym, two multi-sports halls, climbing walls and other facilities as the council commits to encouraging more people into active lifestyles.

Sited on a former car park, the job required BAM to transport large quantities of material on and off a tight town centre site, and to meet stringent requirements for the construction of the pools.

“The whole programme centred on construction of the pools,” says project manager Simon Sutcliffe.

Simon Sutcliffe, Project Manager at BAM
BAM had to dig down to rock level, about 4m below ground, and remove some 12,000 cubic metres of earth, weighing 30,000 tonnes.

The team also had to get steel beams up to 38m long on to the site to build up the frame and get the roof on before it could start to pour water-retaining concrete.

“The most important thing was sequencing,” says Sutcliffe. “If we had got that wrong we could have ended up unable to access critical areas. Senior planner Simon Pratt and I had eight months leading up to start on site when we just worked on what order we would do things in.”

Extra precautions were also put in place to mitigate against disastrous loss of access to areas of the site while excavating; casting of concrete foundations and retaining walls; and steel frame erection was taking place.

“We started with three entrances to site and put in another two to be safe,” says Pratt. “We also had to schedule the ‘abnormal’ loads of roof beams, weighing in at upto 15.5 tonnes each, to come in at 4am so the surrounding roads would be clear.”

Once the pools were excavated, and the steel frame and roof on, the next major challenge was the concrete pours.

“There are lots of restrictions on the use of this type of concrete construction, which was needed for the pools,” says Sutcliffe. “If you get the workmanship or sequence wrong you will create shrinkage cracks, and ultimately have a leaky pool.

“So you can’t be working under the elements; you can’t have pours greater than a certain size; and you need the right time lapses between pours.

“Again it was about sequencing. We knew what we were doing and when.”

Every task on a major construction project has to be exact, but when creating a pool for official swimming competitions, the margins for error are almost non-existent.

Our pool could not be 1mm less than 25m in length, and was allowed to be a maximum of 10mm longer.

“There were stages where you could adjust – after concrete, after render or finally after tiling – but all involve rework, which costs time and money,” says Sutcliffe. “We have just checked the finished tiled pool and we are between 3mm and 7mm over so bang where we wanted to be.”

Mechanical and electrical work is now well underway on the non-swimming areas of the building, and will move onto commissioning the pool filtration systems once the pools are filled with water in January.

Building information modelling has been used to smooth the complex M&E job, with design manager Richard Beaumont overseeing much of this work.

“The building has a massive steel frame with precast and concrete elements as well as M&E pipes and wires so it was very important to make sure it all fitted together,” says Sutcliffe.

As well as all the design, planning and co-ordination work, Sutcliffe credits a willingness to seek out expert advice as a critical factor in the scheme’s success thus far.

“My last job was for Humberside Police, where I was learning about the requirements of custody cells and Home Office regulations,” he says. “Then I’m here with the majority of the same team trying to become a specialist in swimming pools.

“The key is listening to the experts around you. We made three trips to Scotland to learn from our BAM colleagues who have recently built a number of pools, including one at Linwood. We also got specialist sub-contractors on board very early to make sure we could draw on their knowledge.

“Overall BAM has shown on this project just what an advantage our collaborative style of working represents. Whether with the client or a sub-contractor, we work with everyone to ensure the best outcome for the job.”

BAM is programmed to complete the project in May.