SPIE completes £6.4m refurbishment contract for Sidney Webb House

SPIE UK was awarded a £6.4m contract with Unite Students the leading provider of student accommodation in the UK, providing homes for 50,000 students across 28 cities, for the refurbishment of Sidney Webb House, a student accommodation building at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). As Principal Contractor and designer, SPIE has been responsible for design, procurement and site management as well as the removal and fit-out of the new internal fabrics, furniture and fixings, and mechanical and electrical services.

Having just been completed in order to avoid disruption to students, the 11-week on-site programme has been a challenging endeavour from both a technical and programming aspect – because of the speed and complexity of the work – more so than SPIE’s previous contracts with Unite Students. Due to the time frame, SPIE developed a complete single source solution for fast track fit-out that included innovative energy saving and engineering solutions. Using SPIE’s unique approach, the programme’s design, survey and procurement was completed while the team simultaneously prepared the site logistics and terms of engagement. As a result, SPIE managed to carry out an on-site strip out and refurbishment of 454 bedrooms and bathrooms as well as 72 kitchens over the period.

As part of the work, SPIE provided first-fix services – electrical distribution, light fittings, pipework, M&E services, 2400 new LED light fittings, four new modularised air source heat pumps at roof level, new hot water pipework distribution, fire alarms and electrical distribution panels. SPIE also carried out surveys and risk assessments while working in parallel – with fast turnaround of procurement. The works have similarly demonstrated SPIE’s diligence with site-management, encompassing site safety inductions, security (24/7 guarding, security offices), logistics, and protection with perimeter hoarding. The works have been delivered safely and efficiently during this fast-track programme, upholding its ‘No One Gets Hurt’ ethos.

In order to incorporate the new energy saving air source heat pumps required, a challenge arose around lack of plant room space in the building. To solve this, SPIE engineered a distinctive and innovative solution using four easily-movable standard sea containers, that only take up a small footprint; self-contained with the technical components pre-fitted they were lifted into position on the roof. This resolution presented cost savings and cut 5 weeks off the programme’s critical path.

As a result of SPIE’s new delivery model, Unite is set to continue to receive cost-saving benefits for the foreseeable future, driven by SPIE’s specialist multi-technical know-how.

Unite selected SPIE to carry out the refurbishment because of the company’s proven track record of delivery to time and quality over the previous five years alongside its broad service offerings, cost-effectiveness and commitment to achieving target dates.

Stephen Baldwin, Estates Project Manager for The Unite Group plc, said:

“We were particularly impressed with SPIE’s approach to what was going to be a highly complex undertaking. By providing proactive, dedicated support they were able to understand and address our key challenges and provide a bespoke solution. SPIE’s proven track record and working relationship with Unite Students was an attraction for us and confirmed to us that they had the particular skills required to finish the work in such a short time period.”

Steve Gibbs, the Managing Director of SPIE UK’s Facilities Services division, said:

“Although we have previously worked with Unite Students with great success, we have never undertaken such a complex and demanding programme for the organisation. Our new delivery model and commitment to achieving quality targets means we completed ahead of the beginning of the new university year.”

Sidney Webb House, a student accommodation building for students of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), is located near Borough Market in the London borough of Southwark and close to the South Bank area of the River Thames. It accommodates up to 454 graduate students and is independently managed by Unite Students.