Since opening up our Manchester Office in March 2019, Martin Cooper – Technical Director – has been bringing GEA's expertise to the north of England and Scotland on a range of projects. Building long term partnerships has, despite temporary disruption caused by COVID, resulted in growth in this region for GEA.
Here, Martin discusses some of the projects currently underway in the North West region, and introduces a new member of the GEA team who's helping to deliver these projects.
Many of the clients we work with in Manchester have been partners for many years, and we've supported them in delivering projects all over the UK. Most started off in London or the South East and, as they have grown and opened regional offices, establishing our Manchester office - in addition to our original Hertfordshire and Nottinghamshire offices - has given us the ability to more readily work on projects in the north of the country.
I think it's fair to say our clients appreciate the breadth of geotechnical and geoenvironmental knowledge we bring to the table, and also probably our team spirit. We don't have a "charge by the minute" way of doing things, so our regular clients know they can always pick up the phone and talk over aspects of new or existing projects.
We also work with an established list of nearby contractors for drilling, which supports the local economy and delivers a flexible, cost-effective solution to our clients in the North West.
It's no secret that Manchester has enjoyed a real boom in construction over recent years. Regeneration projects have created new neighbourhoods, and clusters of skyscrapers – some listed among the UK's tallest – have dramatically changed the city's skyline.
And the development isn't just confined to Manchester; surrounding areas are also experiencing their own regeneration. We've recently been working at Rochdale Town Hall, and carrying out projects in and around Oldham. Some of those have been for local authorities, as in Rochdale, but we've also completed some slope stability analysis, assessing embankments adjacent to roads and railways. The northwest is also seeing a wave of housing regeneration schemes too, and we're really pleased to be involved in projects in Blackburn and Lancaster.
Consequently, we have seen steady growth in the number and complexity of projects managed by our Manchester team, and we recently welcomed Luke Montgomery as Senior Geotechnical Engineer to help support these projects. Luke has a first-class degree in geology and nine years' experience in ground investigation and geotechnics, working on sites across the UK. He recently managed a team of geotechnical engineers on several HS2 work packages.
Luke is a fantastic addition to the team and will help ensure that clients receive the same excellent level of service they have become accustomed to.
One of our recent projects involved a large multi-storey building in central Manchester. Both the site owner and the structural engineering firm involved are very familiar with the foundation designs that have been needed on other similar large-scale projects. However, we were able to add valuable local knowledge which reduced the foundation costs. Our client had assumed the need for complex deep piling and associated significant costs. However, drawing on our 30-plus years of working in and around Manchester, we were able to anticipate the likely ground conditions before we began our investigations. As a result, we proposed a much lower-cost investigation and economical foundation proposals, to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.
The work we completed for engineering firm Price & Myers at Salford Cathedral has to be one of the most interesting recent projects we've been involved in. Improvements to the cathedral were needed, including new flooring and a new organ - a particularly heavy and sensitive object.
The cathedral is a listed building, so everything had to be done with great care. Building on experience working at Leicester and Coventry Cathedrals, we created a plan that largely involved the use of hand dug trial pits to expose and assess the foundations, whilst keeping damage to the building at an absolute minimum and working around the daily mass services. Given the loads imposed by the organ, deeper investigation was also required and we provided this information by carefully bringing a borehole rig inside the cathedral.
Every project we work on is different but, having specific local knowledge often helps, and it's definitely something our clients value. This is especially true when it comes to helping with planning applications, as different local authorities have varying expectations, which you learn over time.
GEA serves clients all over the UK from our offices in Hertfordshire, Manchester and Nottingham. To get in touch with any of our teams, please follow this link.