Delivering The Largest Private Rented Sector Scheme

Alan Bates, Executive General Manager Lend Lease Construction

Alan Bates, Executive General Manager at  Lend Lease Construction

Since 2007 Lend Lease has been working on the development, design and delivery of the largest residential project in the UK.

The delivery of East Village for phased occupation from November 2013 builds on the success of delivering the best ever Athletes’ Village, that was occupied by up to 17,000 athletes during the London Olympic and Paralympic Games.

After having completed all pre-Games works in time for LOCOG to apply the finishing touches we returned to the site, after the excitement of the Games, in November 2012.

Designed For Legacy

The challenge ahead was immense. To decommission all 2,818 units from Games-use and refurbish them (we used the phrase ‘Retrofit’ for this phase) for legacy occupants. Adapting properties that had been designed to accommodate almost twice as many people as that would ultimately live there was no mean feat.

The sheer scale of the logistics operations, quantities of materials needed and labour involved in order to meet the programme requirements was unique in the residential refurbishment arena.

A critical success factor to the Retrofit phase was the foresight in designing for legacy with a temporary interim use as the athletes’ accommodation. This greatly minimised the impact and level of alterations to be made during the Retrofit phase. Catering for such high usage during the Games also tested the mechanical, electrical and public health commissioned systems. Though all kitchens were installed during the Retrofit as the kitchen areas had been used as additional bedrooms during the Games.

Unprecedented Scale

Typical room being stripped back after the Games, to create the final legacy layout.

Typical room being stripped back after the Games, to create the final legacy layout.

East Village is set out across 11 distinct residential ‘plots’, each containing between four and seven ‘blocks’. The scale of each plot ranges from 120 units to 318 units. We contracted with Tier 1 contractors across five of the plots whilst six were delivered by Lend Lease as Construction Manager.

This approach, a continuation of the pre-Games approach, helped to manage the delivery risk during what was a very challenging programme. By dividing the works in this way, and further sub-dividing the works across the construction management plots, across several key contractors, we were able to provide an efficient approach to resourcing the necessary workforce and skill sets from across the industry.

At the peak of activity we had a daily workforce of 2,200 on site, working a cumulative total of approximately 6,300,000 hours. Taking into account the different trades and the ‘churn’ of different individuals who worked on the project, a total of 6,000 workers played a part in the Retrofit project. Lend Lease is extremely proud of the fact that the site remained one of the safest construction sites in the world during both the pre-Games works and the Retrofit phase. This record was acknowledged nationally under the Considerate Contractors awards scheme in April 2014, when the project secured its fifth Gold medal – an unprecedented achievement in the industry.

During the 19 month Retrofit project our peak month for handover of units was March 2014. We handed over, ready for occupation, 941 units in a 21 day period – an average of 45 units per day. Over the 19 months of work we have laid the equivalent of 40 football fields of carpet and timber flooring and, if piled on top of one another, we’ve used enough paint cans to rise six miles high!

Stakeholder Approvals

A completed Private Rented Sector home in East Village.

A completed Private Rented Sector home in East Village.

But what of the approach that has been embarked on to ensure that all units are fit for purpose and delight their final occupants? Of the 2,818 units, 1,439 are homes owned by Qatari Diar Delancey (QDD) and managed by Get Living London under their Private Rented Sector (PRS) initiative. The process for pre-handover inspections and approvals is thorough and painstaking. In addition to an Independent Certifier (IC), QDD utilises the services of a third-party inspector who makes any representations to the IC. The final test is the “Owners Walks”, where representatives of QDD walk through the units to be handed over so that they can verify themselves that they are happy with the end product. Consistency in the specification and quality of the end product is, of course, of paramount importance.

With a seven year project, which had an interim use as the Athletes’ Village, a robust change control process, followed by an in-depth inspection and approvals regime, has been essential. With approximately 7,200 separate rooms, 5km of corridors and common areas under Get Living London control and 70,000 documents and certificates to secure, the scale of inspection and review was immense.

By completing 49 units early we were able to set benchmarks to measure compliance with specification and quality standards. These units covered all tenures and types across the site and helped to highlight any discrepancies between what was provided and what was required. Having this process in place was instrumental in securing a smooth handover.

The original foresight at the outset of the design and development of East Village has certainly stood the test of time. Each plot has a unique architecture, a carefully considered point at the outset, to ensure an aesthetically pleasing mix of designs. With the majority of plots being designed as perimeter blocks around an internal podium, on a standard chassis principle and ‘tenure blind’, the end product has worked well for both the PRS and affordable units.

The variety of unit layouts across the site provides diversity whilst sticking to a consistent specification when buying materials for the build will help to provide future maintenance efficiencies. The overall scale of the development also provides opportunity for such efficiencies. Another advantage of delivering such scale, essentially all at once, is consistent product availability. Take the kitchens for example; the majority of them were manufactured in Italy and we were able to bulk buy them to provide us with greater cost efficiencies due to economies of scale.

The PRS is certainly embracing the demand for large scale projects. As clients, contractors and stakeholders consider the outcomes of the early PRS projects, from a product and operational viewpoint, feedback from tenants is key.

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