Case study: The challenges of delivering a care home extension during a global pandemic

In this article we explore Hale UK’s work to deliver a 10,000sq ft fourth-floor expansion at Lewisham care home, Rothesay Court, during the height of the global COVID-19 pandemic and while the building was fully occupied

A new fourth floor has been added to Rothersay Court nursing home. The work was carried out at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic

The project

This was a challenging project to add a 10,000sq ft, fourth-floor extension housing 12 new one-bedroom apartments at Rothersay Court Care Home in Lewisham.

Hale UK also replaced an existing lift to reach the newly-created facility, as well as installing a new lift within the building.

And this work was carried out during the height of the global pandemic and while the building was fully occupied.

Over 12 months, the team had to remove the old roof and install a temporary one.

The creation of an acoustic floor provided a work platform from which to build the new storey and 12 housing units.

A key challenge was bringing in eight tonnes of steel to create the new lift shaft and fourth floor.

For this, an area of the car park was sectioned off and large cranes lifted in the steel.

A new mansard roof replaced the temporary one, and solar panels were installed to provide a sustainable energy solution for the building.

Introducing and adhering to strict measures was key to keeping our site safe and providing reassurance to residents and their families during what was a very-challenging time

The new M&E systems had to be integrated with the old infrastructure, including entry and emergency call point systems, utilities, and heating systems.

And the fire-stopping systems on Level 3 had to be upgraded to prevent fire on level 4, and well as introducing automatic smoke control to the communal areas.

Consideration and care over the safety of residents was the primary concern, as many were classed as vulnerable.

Communication and compliance of safety measures were key and collaboration with the client, Scots Care, was vital to ensure a smooth project.

Increased safety measures

The work included replacement of an existing lift and the installation of a new lift to access the additional floor

Hale won the job pre-pandemic, but as the team started on site, the UK went into a national lockdown, meaning all current health and safety processes needed to be reviewed and revised.

Working in close partnership with the client, charitable trust, Scots Care, Hale devised a new schedule of works that addressed its primary concerns of keeping residents safe.

The project was meticulously planned, allowing key trades to work in isolation in each of the apartments.

Once a trade had finished, the area was deep cleaned and the next trade was granted access to complete their element of the job.

Teams were socially distanced, took staggered breaks, and formed ‘work bubbles’, staying with each other to reduce the risk of infection by returning home.

Strict social distancing measures were introduced, and a new role was created for a supervisor on site to oversee and ensure full compliance with the measures.

Keeping residents safe, and preventing any curious individuals accessing the construction site out of hours, was a challenge as a fire escape had to be kept accessible at all times.

This was solved by installing an alarm system on the door which alerted staff at the front desk if anyone accessed the floor via this route.

One of the residents was also suffering from a respiratory disease so careful consideration was given to managing waste and reducing the creation of dust.

Addressing concerns

One of the keys to this successful project was establishing clear, consistent, and regular communication channels with residents.

The Hale team shared the plans and drawings and briefed them at an initial meeting which established relationships and allowed residents to voice any concerns.

I’d describe the project as plain sailing, with some bumps in the road, which is pretty good when you consider we were in the first national lockdown

“Communication processes were developed and agreed in partnership with residents and regular updates were shared via staff and a dedicated noticeboard,” said Scots Care chief executive, Shona Fleming.

“Any issues were then dealt with quickly and efficiently.”

She added: “We worked closely with the Hale UK team and built an open and trusting relationship and they responded quickly to any concerns and we were able to demonstrate that residents were being listened to and their requests were responded to quickly.

“We gave them plenty of notice for any noisy or milestone aspects of the build for example, removing the roof or the arrival of the large cranes so residents new what to expect.”

Keeping on track

Alongside residents’ concerns, it was important that the project remained on time and within budget for the client.

As a charity, any delays that impacted the overall cost of the project would create a major issue as any additional funds had to be signed off by a board of trustees, potentially creating further costly delays.

And maintaining a COVID-secure environment was also a key consideration, so on site there was regular cleaning, washing stations, and all trades wore the appropriate PPE.

The project was deemed a critical infrastructure project by the UK Government, so Hale was able to maintain the supply of materials from merchants, allowing continuation of the works throughout.

Fleming said: “I’d describe the project as plain sailing, with some bumps in the road, which is pretty good when you consider we were in the first national lockdown.

“Introducing and adhering to strict measures was key to keeping our site safe and providing reassurance to residents and their families during what was a very-challenging time.

“In a previous role, I’d worked in a property surveyors so I had a good understanding of construction project and the issues that can arise from the technical challenges of this type of build.”