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The logistical challenge

From construction manager Mace's point of view the challenges presented by the Great Court project were several orders of magnitude greater than the typical city centre site, even in London.

Access and storage, public safety, noise and nuisance - not necessarily in that order - dominate the planning for such projects, and the Great Court was no different, just more challenging.

All demolition and construction was to take place in a tight area bounded by Grade 1 listed buildings of doubtful durability. Access was extremely limited and restricted to small vehicles.

The only storage area was the eastern section of the forecourt. And, while it was never an absolute precondition, everyone involved was hoping to keep the Museum fully open to the public throughout the entire contract.

Mace project manager Carl Wright says that the 15 month pre-construction period was key to the success of the project. 'Apart from giving us the time to develop the design fully and get the programming right, it meant we could liase with the Museum staff over all the interfaces with the Museum proper and our intrusions into it.

'We found that with some subtle rerouting of the circulation patterns and precautions against noise and dust there would be no need to close the Museum to the public at all.'

Achieving this also depended on a separate 18 month £8.5M programme of pre-construction enabling works, mainly the decanting of some stored items into temporary storage, service diversions, and the setting up of new plant rooms to replace those due to be demolished in the Great Court area.

Considerable effort also went into building relationships with local residents and businesses.

Concerns about extra vehicle movements, noise, dust and disruption were addressed through regular presentations and the production of a quarterly newsletter. Mace also took the opportunity to get to know the many specialist trade contractors who would be involved on the project, and incorporated the feedback into its planning.

By this time the design team's original assumption that no tower craneage would be possible had been quietly abandoned. One of the planners' first formal exercises was an analysis of the logistics and the number and location of cranes needed for maximum efficiency. 'We looked at cranes on the roof, cranes inside the Great Court, cranes on the forecourt and any combination of these.

'The solution which turned out to have the least impact on the construction process and offered the maximum availability was one tower crane on the forecourt and one inside, in the north west corner.'

At 46m high (taller than Nelson's Column) and with a 75m jib, the outer tower crane dominated the local skyline. Its erection in February 1998 marked the real start of construction on the £100m project.

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