An overview of my work placement at William Anelay Ltd.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

First site visit

Site visit to Apethorpe Hall
(Apethorpe, Northamptonshire, England)

“You have to respect the buildings and try to work with what is already there.” 
~ Charles Anelay 
(Barker (2013) William Anelay shares secrets of 266 years in business, Construction News, 27 February, 201)

Built around three courtyards, Apethorpe Hall is a Grade I listed country house dating back to the 15th century. It is one of the finest Jacobean houses in England, and was the main seat of the Fane family, Earls of Westmorland. In its prime the hall entertained Elizabeth I, James I and Charles I who among them made some thirteen visits to the house.

After World War II much of the adjoining parkland was sold and the house became an approved school. In 1982 the school closed down and in 1983 the building was sold to a Libyan businessman, Wanis Mohamed Burweila, for £750,000. Burweila left the building vacant leading to its deterioration; this in turn led to him, in 2001, being served a Statutory Repairs Notice, which is an order from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, requiring him to undertake certain urgent works to ensure the future of the building. Burweila sold the property to a developer called Kestral Armana Ltd, (subsequently renamed Apethorpe Country Estate Ltd (ACEL)).

The hall was empty for twenty years from the late 1970s and was becoming dangerously unsafe, with incipient damp and rot. When English Heritage started its Buildings at Risk Register in 1998, the hall was included on it. In September 2004 the Hall was compulsorily purchased by the British Government under section 47 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (only the second time the Government has had to use these powers) English Heritage has spent £4 million refurbishing it to make it waterproof. Since 2007 it has been seeking a buyer willing to spend a further £4 million to complete the restoration.
(http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/professional/research/buildings/apethorpe-hall-1/apethorpe-hall-site/ )

Contract commencement date: 18 March 2013
Contract completion date: 1 July 2014
Contract period: 80 weeks 

Site visit
The visit to Apethorpe Hall was the first site visit of my placement. Needless to say, I was very excited, as the Hall is both historically and architecturally an extremely important part of UK's heritage . The works on the site did not only include the main building, but also the orangery, stable block, house and granary, as well as other outbuildings. The programme of works included a wide range of roof repairs, masonry and timber repairs. A day before the site visit I familiarised myself with the history of the place as well as the current on-going works and it turned out that William Anelay was ahead of the schedule on this project. Most of the works were completed or on the verge of completion.

The site visit itself consisted of three main parts:
  1. Contract review meeting (CRM) – with the site manager and project manager, which basically meant looking over the progress and determining whether there are any issues with the progress or sub- contractors
  2. Site meeting – meeting between the principal contractors (project manager and site manager), client (English Heritage), quantity surveyor and the architect.
  3. Walk around the site 
One of the interesting points about the works was the fact that the programme of works had to be scheduled around some very specific ecological concerns. One of these concerns were bats. As natural roosting sites have become scarce due to development and land use change, so the number of artificial roost sites has increased. Many bats use buildings for roosting, and it is vital for the future of our bat populations that any building or maintenance work takes bats into account from the outset. In terms of Apethorpe Hall, the true meaning of sustainable building was illustrated in scheduling the roofing works so that the bats would not be disturbed. Although this might seem as a very small aspect compared to the whole completion programme, it shows that no area should be neglected and only confirms the central idea of working with what is already there. From bats to architectural elements and details.

And finally, I cannot leave out the rustic looking model village of Apethorpe with its thatched roofs and pretty gardens. If I had to pick the most English looking English village, this would be it!

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