HLM’s Sheffield social science hub to be knocked down and restarted

The practice’s £65 million Faculty of Social Science building for the University of Sheffield will be knocked down and restarted after its foundations were found to be inadequate.

Construction started on the 17,000m2 scheme – which HLM said would ‘enhance the faculty’s reputation’ – in the summer of 2019.

But, with the steel and concrete frame complete, main contractor BAM Construction recorded worrying levels of subsidence.

Initially the firm planned to rebuild half the frame to solve the problem but it has now conceded that it will need to knock down the whole structure and restart on new foundations.

Demolition work will last throughout September and October, with completion of the building pushed back 18 months to December 2022.

It is being constructed on a former reservoir at the junction of Northumberland Road and Whitham Road in the South Yorkshire city. It is understood that a complex piling arrangement is required and that the current foundations are not considered deep enough for their purpose.

A spokesperson for the University of Sheffield said: ‘Everyone involved in the project is extremely disappointed with the piling failure.

‘We are very sorry for the disruption that local residents close to the site are experiencing and remain committed to working with BAM to try to mitigate this as much as possible.’

BAM Construction said in a statement: ‘We are truly sorry that this is so disruptive for the neighbours. We are acutely conscious of the impact this has on those around us, in particular on a very close group of neighbours. We do apologise for this.

‘We have concluded that the best solution is to deconstruct the entire building before rebuilding.’

BAM added: ‘The technical difficulties that have led to the present situation are highly unusual. Everyone’s aim has been to create a building that the university and surrounding community will be proud of and that improves on what was there before.

‘Ultimately we will achieve this, just later than originally planned, and will keep doing what we can to reduce disruption in the meantime.’

HLM said on its website that the social sciences hub would meet the future growth of the faculty over the next 15 years.

The practice said the scheme would provide ‘bespoke accommodation’ for the departments of sociological studies, economics and politics alongside shared facilities such as a collaborative research centre.

It added: ‘The design embraces the idea that every learning space should be active and includes shallow-raked, large-volume active learning spaces that support both traditional and active learning alongside technology-rich group working areas and individual study areas.

‘The BREEAM Outstanding design considers both economic and social sustainability and is a positive contributor to the local environment. It includes a neighbourhood pocket park and flexible facilities that can be used by both students and local residents.’

The building’s form is described as a series of overlapping organic curved floor plates that ebb and flow, ‘hinting at the site’s history as an old reservoir’. A façade of staggered glass planes ‘reflects the world around and the multifaceted nature of the social sciences’ said HLM.

Mott Macdonald is structural engineer for the project. In a statement, the firm said: ‘We have supported BAM and its piling specialist subcontractor Cementation Skanska to identify the required action and we’re now working together to implement the solution.’

Cementation Skanska and HLM have both been contacted for comment.

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