Delivering 159 homes across three phases, Operations Manager Mike and Senior Site Manager Drew chat about life on site at our award-winning scheme, The Old Printworks (TOPW) in Frome, and their roles within our in-house construction team, AHCS.
1) Can you tell us a little bit about your role within AHCS?
Mike: I have been working with Acorn for around four years now, having previously worked for the company as a contractor on some of Acorn’s older sites, that’s how I got to know Robin, Regional Managing Director for Acorn Bristol. I was excited to join the AHCS team which stands for Acorn Homes Construction Solutions, Acorn’s internal construction arm. Born out of our Cornish region, Acorn Blue, The Dunes in Perranporth was the first AHCS managed project, a hugely popular and well-known scheme in the local area that went on to win a number of awards.
As Operations Manager, I oversee all live projects, so once the development team has finished their pre-construction design, myself and my team will progress this into a live site. I get involved in a range of areas including pre-construction (any works that need to be carried out before we commence on site), design, licenses, highways, utilities, clients, sub-contractors and more.
Drew: I joined AHCS at the start of 2020 as Senior Site Manager, leading the construction team at The Old Printworks, Acorn’s largest in-house construction scheme to date. Similarly to Mike, I get involved in a broad range of tasks including material ordering, budgets, Health and Safety, liaising with clients, subcontractors and contractors, etc. I work with a great team beside me including my Apprentice Site Manager Josh who joined the company at around the same time as me.
2) What do you like most about working on TOPW project and why?
Mike: Having worked on the site for nearly four years with another one to go, it has been an interesting project to see from the start. I began working on the demolition of the existing factory building which was formerly known as the Butler Tanner & Dennis printers, clearing all the infrastructure. Well known in the local area, the factory was one of the biggest employers in Frome in the 1980’s so many people had connections to it or knew someone who worked there. It’s been great getting to know the local residents and purchasers and with the factory being dormant for so many years, I think they were happy for it to be given a new lease of life.
Drew: I am very lucky in the fact that I really enjoy my job and though it comes with its challenges, I’ve never got problems, only solutions, that’s the way I look at it. As Senior Site Manager it’s very rewarding to see the final outcome of the project, especially when the residents move in. It’s nice to speak to them and see them happy, the scheme really has transformed into its own small community.
3) Can you describe what a typical day on site looks like?
Mike: I will be regularly checking how we’re doing against the build programme, ensuring we have adequate resource on site. I’m always trying to work 8-12 weeks ahead of the site team, working closely with our Design Manager Richard on the next phase of works, ensuring we have everything in place to start in 8 weeks’ time. I visit every site on a weekly basis spending a day on each, checking the programme, Health and Safety, etc. I suppose you could call me a trouble shooter; I’ll be looking for the problems as well as the positives and what’s stopping us from being able to move forward.
Drew: A typical day could see me liaising with contractors, monitoring activities and ensuring works are completed on time and within budget while adhering to Health and Safety standards throughout. Working through the Pandemic has certainly presented some challenges, in particular labour shortages and staff off poorly so as Senior Site Manager, it is my job to deal with this as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
4) What is the biggest challenge you have faced while working at TOPW and how did you help overcome this?
Mike: The site runs close to the River Frome so we needed to be mindful of things like pollution. We put a new drainage system in place very early on which works by capturing flood water in large tanks which fill up then slowly discharge back into the river at a controlled rate, so we don’t affect the water height of the river.
Drew: Working during the Pandemic, we’ve had challenges with materials – ones that would have previously been on a two-week lead time could now take eight, twelve or even sixteen weeks to arrive so to help mitigate this, we are now placing orders much earlier than we would have previously done.
5) How does TOPW encourage biodiversity on site?
Mike: We have just installed a 150-metre-long boardwalk down the side of the River Frome so it’s going to be a much nicer area for the residents to live. The boardwalk is set to be complete at the end of August with the connecting pathway from the development completing as part of the third phase. This is a really nice addition to the scheme which will improve accessibility of the riverside for walkers wanting to explore the local nature.
Drew: We pay a lot of care and attention to the local wildlife. It’s the first site I’ve worked on that features hedgehog highways between the fences of the homes so the little guys can pass through the gardens freely. We have also installed a number of bird and bat boxes across site and selected homes feature bee bricks to provide more habitats for the bee population.
With a limited number of homes remaining in Phase 2, the next release of homes will be a selection of 1-bedroom apartments from £140,000*, 2-bedroom apartments and the final 4-bedroom houses. For more information, call our sales team today on 01373 888 303 or visit the Show Home open daily from 10am – 5pm.
*The 1-bedroom apartments are Starter Homes available to eligible first-time buyers at 80% of open market value, speak to the sales team for full terms and conditions.