Arena Central, Birmingham City Centre

 
Birmingham city centre is experiencing a glut of residential building, and precast concrete is getting a slice of the action.
 
Arena Central is a 3.7ha mixed use development site next to Centenary Square, where one of the second city’s biggest apartment complexes is under construction. Dandara is the developer for the project, which comprises 323 apartments, in two towers 17 and 22 storeys high, joined by a precast link bridge.
 
The scheme is using some 14,000m2 of precast facade walls and over 18,000m2 of precast floors, supplied by Northern Irish firm Creagh Concrete. This followed a successful application of Creagh’s ‘Rapidres’ system on the Forbes Place project in Aberdeen, where it worked directly for the developer, which took responsibility for the foundations, fit out and building services.
 
“Due to the scale of the Arena Central job, Dandara has procured it traditionally, appointing a main contractor in Galliford Try, and a structural engineer and architect,” explains Creagh director Ian Brogan. “Obviously, some main contractors like to use an insitu solution but on the Arena Central we are again using the Rapidres system.”
 
Using Rapidres, a fast-track build method developed by Creagh, design, manufacture and assembly of precast components is delivered inhouse by its team of estimators, engineers, planners and project managers, plus factory workers. At Arena Central, these components total over 5,500 and the firm will also deliver associated concrete wet works and tie steels to meet the progressive collapse design requirements.
 
Architect for the project is Corstorphine & Wright. Director Simon Jones says: “The use of precast was the only way we felt we could achieve the high-quality finish required. The modern feel to the facade design required a crispness in the detail and execution that would be difficult to achieve in in-situ.
 
“There are two differing colours in the concrete, which had to be consistent, and Creagh worked hard to achieve the required tones.”
 
The building was detailed by the Creagh design team using Revit software, to produce a 3D model which included the cast-in M&E services, explains Creagh’s senior contracts manager on the project, Stephen Armour.
“This included the placing of electrical conduits within the internal walls and cast in fixings for the balcony glazing and handrails to help the follow-on trades,” he says.
 
“Other benefits of our approach include the installation of doors and windows offsite as part of the factory process, along with the lifting into place of bathroom pods during the erection phase.
 
“Over 50% of the project was produced and check for quality assurance off-site before the installation commenced,” Armour adds. “This ensures high standards of quality control are maintained, while providing a quality of finish comparable to other traditional build methods.”
 
The precast components are being transported in over 1,000 loads from Creagh’s bespoke factories at its head office in Toomebridge, Northern Ireland, directly to the site on Suffolk Street Queensway.
 
“Our two installation teams are targeting completion of the installation in a 48-week programme for both blocks, with access granted for fit out by main contractor Galliford Try as the building progresses,” says Armour.
Creagh will employ a peak of 40 skilled operatives on the project during the installation, finishing and mastic works.
 
“The scale of the Arena Central development demonstrates the efficiency offsite brings through the factory manufacturing process,” says Armour. “The result is a reduced build and fit out duration for the main contractor, with a complete and traceable quality assurance process, which is capable of tracking each piece on a database throughout the project, through to handover and the lifecycle of the building.”
 
“The speed of construction once the project moved into the precast package has been impressive and on such a restricted site there would have been real logistical challenges with other forms of construction,” adds Jones.

Creagh’s precast products at Arena Central:
- External sandwich units with a finished external leaf, cavity insulation and inner structural leaf, prepared with paint to receive final decoration after installation.
- Structural internal precast walls, also finished.
- Lift shaft, stairs, landings and slabs for the link bridge.
- Straight and bespoke corner cantilever balconies, finished with an anti-slip pattern and cast-in fixings to receive handrail and glazing.
- Hollowcore flooring to all levels.

Project Team
Client: Dandara Properties
Main contractor: Galliford Try
Architect: Corstorphine & Wright
Precast subcontractor: Creagh Concrete Products