Emsworth Street apartments were built by Tomkins Commercial and Industrial Builders in 2015. The building contains 10 units built over three floors. This was the first project that I got to be the site manager from beginning to end. Emsworth Street apartments ended up being a steep learning curve for myself.
Working with neighbours
Construction of the building had a couple challenges to overcome. The first was the zero boundaries down the northern side of the building and rear retaining walls.
Without the cooperation of the neighbours, I am not sure how we would have built out of the ground. Particularly, with the zero boundary footings and retaining walls backing on the neighbour’s garage.
Overhead power lines
The second challenge was the overhead powerlines at the front of the building. The building is 6m from the front boundary and 7.5m from the overhead power lines. Coming out of the ground We could work around the powerlines as the first floor was set back 3m from the upper floors.
There was room at ground level (first floor) to position cranes and concrete pumps towards the front of the site. Once the scaffolding was erected we then ran out of room. Fortunately, the neighbour on the southern side had just sold his property to a developer. The developer allowed us to rent the property for a short period. This gave a place to position our cranes and pumps as well as storing materials.
Digging the foundations and drainage was a little challenging as there was rock about 400mm below the ground surface. All of the footings were required to be bed 200mm into the rock. This added to the time it took to dig the foundations and created a small amount of tension between some of the neighbours.
As the building went up, there were the usual problems of subcontractors being understaffed, timelines not being meet and the availability of materials. To help speed up the process, we used high early strength concrete on the suspended floors. This allowed the internal fit out to commence sooner which helped regain some of our lost time.
No room to work
The biggest problem we had was the lack of room on the different levels. There was no room for loading bays, so everything that the contractors needed were loaded onto the floors. The block layers had the hardest time trying to work around all their materials. In the photos, you can see the tight confines that were created by the limited floor space.
On level 3, the plasterboard was preloaded before the roof trusses were installed, which caused all sorts of problems. The plasterboard stacks were huge. Back propping was left on levels 1 & 2 to minimise the risk the concrete floors being overloaded by the plasterboard. The back propping did cause a few issues installing the ceilings around the kitchens on level 2.
We managed to estimate the finish heights for the top of the brick fire dividing walls correctly, without any adjustments being made once the trusses were installed. Getting this height correct doesn’t often happen, so it was good to see the extra time spent had paid off.
The biggest hurdle that we had internally was the scaffolding taking up the entire center stairwell. The scaffolding was for the rendering and stippled ceilings to be completed before the floor tiling. Normally, this would have been fine, except the kitchen delivery was late by a few days resulting in a clash. To the cabinet maker’s credit, they worked around the scaffolding even though it did take them twice as long to deliver the cabinetry.
All in all the project and the team I got to work with were great. Looking back now, I sometimes wonder why I thought some of the challenges were so difficult. I guess hindsight is a wonderful thing.