Throughout the construction industry, Covid-19 has brought a range of challenges, but from these many opportunities have blossomed. From developing new procedures of working on site through to new collaboration methods, our team has adapted to different modes of operation; not only to ensure the safety of the staff working on the project, but also to ensure that our work progresses seamlessly.

Here, we discuss the operational changes while working as Architects on the Grade I Listed “Our Town Hall”.

Manchester Town Hall

At the beginning of the UK’s lockdown, the management contractor working on Our Town Hall, Lendlease, and their work package contractors reassessed their method statements and site layouts to prepare for changing roles, legislation, and strategy as part of the Covid-19 measures. These swiftly implemented changes were supported by the wider project team, including Purcell in our role as Principal Designer. The success of the project during this difficult period was defined by the quick decisions early on; from efficiently changing operational methods through to bringing in more welfare facilities.

Our team working on the Town Hall have been lucky during this period as we were hit during the strip-out phase, where labour and material removals were the biggest resource required. The scaffolding and preparation for site welfare were well underway before lockdown happened. To finalise these tasks, Lendlease quickly implemented changes within their working methodologies and their team launched a company-wide peer-review to ensure the safety of all staff and key visitors working on the project.

Associate, Rebecca Stone

Architecturally, Our Town Hall has spacious Victorian rooms and long corridors throughout its floors, which have allowed the establishment of a one-way system with appropriate signage. When entering the site, there are handwashing stations and throughout the building and its corridors — which are short of 2 metres wide — there are bay windows, allowing people to work with each other safely.

The space in the building naturally allows multiple projects to be continued at once, while socially distancing. The safety of staff on site has been carefully thought through, and luckily, the format of the building has allowed a number of staff to work on-site safely and at ease.

Associate, Rebecca Stone

Our team has adapted to working collaboratively from home. Together with our colleagues working on the project, we have developed an emergency Covid-19 response group to share knowledge and progress on the site. This has allowed various companies to share initiatives, implement site and design changes, and organise virtual social events, all of which have helped move the project forward. Despite the challenges of remote working, communication between the companies working on the project has been excellent.

New working methods have given our team increased awareness of how we structure our day. When we’re on site, we have a schedule regarding how long we spend in the building, which centres around the project’s priorities. The team has become forward-thinking in terms of how everyone’s time on the project is managed. With enhanced use of virtual technologies, we think twice before travelling to the building, which is more sustainable and time-effective.

Architectural Assistant, Vanessa Torri

While this clearly cannot replace being physically on site, all the teams working across the project have shown great resilience and adapted to new methodologies to drive the project forward. This success is due to extensive communication across teams which has enabled us to efficiently implement necessary changes to the site’s logistics and methods without having to considerably change our design. Despite the challenges of Covid-19, the project to restore Our Town Hall pays homage to the spirit of Manchester; a city rooted in collective innovation and community.