It isn’t often you are able to return to a project and look back through the archives to see how things have progressed and the structure fared, but St. Giles has proved such an opportunity to compare the approach and delivery of yester year with today’s new technologies.
Makers has a long tradition within the parking sector which is reflected by the longevity of its knowledgeable staff. It was only last month that the site agent who oversaw the original refurbishment programme retired at the young age of 68 after 25 years of service, but the work that Des Jeffery and his team carried out back then surpassed all expectations.
Most companies absorb change on a weekly basis within their processes, techniques and products, therefore rarely do they realise their impact and potential at the time. It’s not until you go back in time and see the complete difference in approach, do you appreciate how much your business has changed.
Whilst things move on and develop there remains an irony that some things really don’t, they just get rebranded. 18 years ago Trainspotting was hit at the cinema; Trainspotting 2 was released this year, the first published book of Game of Thrones hit the shops and we are to be served with the Grand Finale that hits our TV screens shortly. Independence Day was the blockbuster movie and the nation will hit the polls all because of Brexit! So now 18 years on St. Giles gets its rebrand.
St. Giles is what can be described as a compact 330 space city centre car park, accessed from a busy high street. This landlocked structure was constructed over a 2 year period and finally opened in 1966. Back then cars were 24% smaller and lighter and the configuration and layout of the car park reflected the vehicles of the day, but the site was previously occupied by an Opera House and Theatre until it fell into disrepair and lay vacant for a number of years and to become demolished to provide the space for St. Giles.
The vehicles of today are much wider and heavier as manufactures look to ever expand the footprint which seems to only be constrained by the approximate length and width of a traditional parking space, but perhaps that’s all set to change with the drive to electric vehicles and cleaner air, with battery life and range a key concern there yet maybe the move to smaller lighter vehicles.
In 1999 St Giles was the last car park project carried out by ‘Makers Industrial’, we had recently been acquired by Keller who introduced us into the world of the Corporate PLC and we soon became amalgamated into Makers UK.
What is clearly evident is the difference in contract communication and products. Our archives show that the car park had to be closed down for 14 weeks in order to complete the refurbishment as the technologies for both structural repairs and car park membranes were not fast cure. Indeed the contract referred to compensation events for have the car park closed. Today’s refurbishment is somewhat different. It still covers the major core areas, but the development of fast cure products has meant that this ‘tight’ car park can still remain open and operational providing a 3rd of its parking whilst the main refurbishment works are ongoing.
Today’s rapid set mortars and fast cure PMMA systems lead the way in allowing operators to still provide service and maintain income.
In 1999 Fosroc led the way with its galvanic anode in measures to control corrosion and with its structural repair mortar but 18 years on the technology sold to Vector is available under licence. The world of corrosion management had come along way with the industry developing everything from anodes, impressed currents, monitoring and migratory inhibitors; all now have their place and respective track records.
Deck membranes were based on hard wearing but slow curing processes that as a contractor were forever subject to the British weather, but with the advancement in chemistry and demands from both operators and contractors the benefits of fast cure PMMA systems has allowed a different approach to car park refurbishment projects, with most manufacturers covering all aspects and variety of car park deck permutations.
The most significant area of change has to be that of communication driven by the thing we either love or hate the ‘smart mobile phone’. Looking back the contract file read like a well written book, chapter and verse well presented with issues raised and items responded to in letters of legible English. Moreover the natural delay of the postal service provided that essential breathing space that provided considered answers, but these too could be accelerated by the fax machine!
Today we use email as a first response, a list of people cc’d who all seem to make comment producing long email chains that become more complex than the subject matter, everyone now touches the project more. Now it’s immediate, answers and commentary now are expected by return as if we are chained to our laptop or smart phone. Do these produce a better product? Or does it actually stop us from thinking and resolving issues at ground level? Who knows but it is here to stay!
What is significant is the flexibility we have today with digital information, the ability to collect, share and store data. It is unfortunate but our photos of 18 years are somewhat limited no doubt because of the process of taking, developing and storing photos which is regrettable. Today our phones are computers, click, press, send and we have instant digital photos that capture the moment.
What we can say looking back that despite the advances in technology we seem to have more paper but inevitably the contract, its work and the success of the project will remain and rely upon those carrying it out. For my part I was a senior contracts manager back then, today I am the Managing Director of Makers Construction responsible of ensuring our approach and delivery is consistent regardless of advances in technology to the satisfaction of our Clients and I am sure that the team we have assembled for St. Giles will perform just as well as Des and his team 18 years ago.