What’s it like to build in the middle of a city?
Composed of a 2000-tonne steel frame covered in glass, the glittering facade of BBC Wales’ headquarters in Cardiff is an impressive sight. From this building, news is broadcast across the entire country each day, reaching millions.
Construction on the £100m project started in December 2015 and work was completed in March 2018. Previously the site of a bus station, the new BBC hub now houses 1,200 staff in offices, studios and media production spaces.
This landmark building is right in the heart of Cardiff, surrounded by busy roads and pedestrian walkways. The main contractors, ISG, had a big job on their hands to ensure that its construction didn’t cause problems for local businesses, traffic management or pedestrian safety.
Working with others
Cardiff’s Principality Stadium is directly behind the BBC headquarters, and the new building faces the city’s Central station. Prior to, and during the build, planners and project managers held regular cross-organisation discussions, to avoid disruption when events were happening at the Stadium and ensure that access to the station was maintained.
One of the first big jobs onsite involved installing piling and, over 40 weeks, the removal of approximately 47,500 cubic metres of material, to allow the building’s substructure to be put in place.
Around 100 lorries visited the site each day to remove this huge amount of material from the city centre. By using a traffic management app which they devised in-house, the contractors were able to avoid blocking inner city roads, and had zero complaints from the public.
Bringing it all together
The build’s biggest challenge was the installation of its steel frame. In many buildings, the frame is purely structural and hidden from view. However the project architects, Foster + Partners, intended it to be left exposed under the glass roof, as an essential feature of the building’s design. This meant that the steel frame needed to remain in pristine condition. It had to be installed and welded in place without being marked, so the effect of walking through the space remained immaculate.
Spotlight on some of the jobs involved:
Every construction project is the result of a team of professionals, working together to share expertise and bring a structure to life. The task of building BBC Wales’ HQ is no different. Here are just a few of the experts who helped to make it a reality.
Before the mud was removed to make way for the building’s substructure, operatives drove piles into the ground using heavy machinery to provide vital support for the building’s foundations and ensure the ground wouldn’t subside during excavations.
Steel erectors were vital, installing the building’s signature steel frame and ensuring it remained unmarked as it was fitted and fixed into place, according to plans created by architects and engineers.
Building Information Modelling (or BIM) technicians collated recommendations from surveyors, architects and engineers to create digital, 3D visualisations of the steel frame ahead of the build. This helped to ensure that each part would fit together in the desired way and that the building would withstand use.
In order to avoid traffic build-up or congestion in Cardiff city centre as lorries moved surplus materials off-site, transport managers helped to develop a special traffic management app which successfully predicted and avoided disruption.
Prior to, during and after the build, PR officers communicated news of the project to the public and managed the client and contractors’ reputations. They were responsible for sharing details of the project and its benefits online, on social media and through positive press coverage.
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