An Award-Winning Project Delivers a Valuable Community Hub

6 January 2021

From initial planning through to an award-winning build completion, FFT worked closely with registered charity the Sussex Community Development Association, overcoming specific challenges to develop a community centre seated within a sustainable building that now provides valuable services to the local people of Newhaven.

The project

The Sussex Community Development Association (SCDA) is a registered charity working across East Sussex to support community-based projects aimed at addressing the needs of the most vulnerable areas of the community.

SDCA provides a number of hubs and community centres which form part of the charity’s support programme, providing bases for various projects and services that are highly valuable to local people and organisations.

In 2016, SDCA began to develop plans for a new community centre in Newhaven. FFT provided initial assistance during this planning phase, on a pro-bono basis, attending occasional meetings and producing budget estimates.

The project was to be funded for the most part by a National Lottery grant. Assistance was required in making the application for the grant, which was something we provided to a successful outcome, with the funding approved. The client also required help to ensure the project plans stayed within budget. Again, this became our responsibility.

In May 2018, FFT was appointed as Contract Administrator, Quantity Surveyor and Principal Designer for the construction of the single storey building.

The challenges

The location of the build was a brownfield site, formerly given over to landfill, raising two key concerns. The first concern was ensuring that the ground could support the weight of the building. Secondly, because the site had been previously used as a refuse centre, there was potential for the presence of ground gas.

The brief also stipulated that the building must be fully sustainable, which prompted a number of special considerations.

Our role, and overcoming challenges

We worked closely with the architect and mechanical and electrical engineers to develop the design to tender stage.

Our role encompassed:

Risk management

There were numerous risks associated with the site’s former landfill use. We therefore obtained extensive site investigation surveys, including a geotechnical investigation report; an environmental investigation and report; an environmental remediation strategy and verification plan; a topographical survey, and a ground radar survey. From this information, the structural engineer was able to design a lightweight concrete raft foundation, complete with incorporated gas mitigation measures.

Building design

We recommended a cross-laminated timber (CLT) structure with good levels of insulation so as to reduce the energy requirement to heat the building. An air source heat pump would be installed to heat the building. Both of these factors ensured the excellent sustainability credentials demanded by the brief. The CLT structure also provided the added benefit of being lighter in weight compared to traditional construction. This meant that the load on the foundations could be reduced, and it also helped offset the poor ground conditions.

National Lottery grant application

We contributed to the required business plan and prepared a Capital Project Delivery Plan to support the grant application. We also supplied regular reports during the construction phase which were required as part of the funding agreement. Because initial tender returns exceeded the budget, we worked closely with the contractor to successfully reduce costs so that we could ensure the project remained within cost parameters.

Tender process

As Principal Designer, we provided a detailed Pre-Construction Information Pack ahead of tender, and then proceeded to manage the tender process in full. Finally, we handled the tender adjudication stage, before reporting back to the client with our recommendations.

Contract administration

In our role as Contract Administrator and Quantity Surveyor, we chaired meetings, carried out works inspections and valuations, and produced payment certificates. The client was regularly furnished with financial reports, cashflow forecasts and National Lottery grant reports.

An award-winning outcome

Construction of the community centre began in September 2019, with a completion date set for March 2020. Additional required works and the COVID-19 pandemic meant that completion was pushed back, although only by three months. The completed building was handed over to the Sussex Community Development Association in June 2020.

Denton Island Community Centre, comprising a main activity hall, meeting rooms and landscaped outdoor spaces, is now billed as a spacious and welcoming base for a wide range of projects and services in Newhaven, including the likes of a nursery, midwife and health visitor appointments, family activities and young people projects.

Not long after opening, the centre was nominated for a Sussex Heritage Trust Public & Community Award. Sponsored by Gatwick Airport Ltd, the award recognises projects that provide or improve facilities for the community.

The awards judge said of the project:

“A superbly designed and built project which will greatly benefit young people in a severely disadvantaged area. Great care and attention to detail. The client is deeply embedded in finding solutions across society and is delighted with the result. The project should take its place in an evolving strategy for social development, volunteering and social cohesion in Newhaven”.