From horse and cart... to virtual reality engineers

Contractor BAM which is currently creating the Heath Innovation Centre for Lancaster University has revealed the details of its work in Lancashire.

Thursday, 31st October 2019, 12:00 am
Updated Thursday, 31st October 2019, 11:37 am
Lancaster University Environment Centre 2003.

BAM has constructed £250 million of new buildings in the county in the past 20 years.

The contractor, which not only builds, but also develops, designs, engineers and runs facilities for buildings, has delivered 34 schemes.

Its first, a set of ‘test houses’ and offices, was for Rover in 1943 at Waterloo Mill, Clitheroe. It also delivered the television relay facility at Winter Hill in Chorley for the then Ministry of Works around 1950.

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Lancaster University. Infolab 21. The BAM-built InfoLab21 won the national British Council for Offices Best Corporate Workplace prize and has achieved a BREEAM Excellent rating. The copper-clad building with its distinctive bronze windows, includes state-of-the-art computer facilities, 6200m2 of office space and a glass atrium with self-cleaning windows.

Currently, it is also creating another innovation facility: the Heath Innovation Centre for Lancashire University. Combined the schemes now total over a quarter of a billion pounds in the past 20 years.

BAM’s regional director, Ian Fleming, said: “Although BAM worldwide is 150 years old this year our history in Lancashire is predominantly modern.

“Twenty three of our 34 contracts in the county have been delivered in the past 20 years and one thing stands out most: our strength is in forming strong partnerships.

“We are onto our eighth scheme for Lancaster University and delivered six schemes for BAE Systems in Samlesbury valued around £120 million, four Asdas, and three NHS schemes.

BAM in BAE reception.

“Our second scheme for the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has now opened. The emphasis on engineering there also reveals something of importance about history and economics.

“Going back in time, we built high streets and manufacturing facilities, while these days we create education buildings and supermarkets.

“What we build and who we are building for, tells a story of a nation’s economic fortunes.

“At one point, we were converting buildings into emergency hospital for those injured during World War Two. The industry has transformed itself in my lifetime. UCLan’s new Engineering Innovation Centre which we had the pleasure to create illustrates how contractors have become evermore the fulcrum of expertise in the built environment.

“Once we may have been agents of delivery, but now, we have become the agents of change by integrating design, engineering, and managing facilities.

“Our work is integral to how sustainable and safe buildings are. The data we mine from buildings enables them to be used more efficiently.

“When BAM started, in the 19th century, materials moved by horse and cart, the telephone and camera had not been invented.

“Today, we have a live computer model in an Ipad and virtual reality engineers, allowing us to talk around a building that doesn’t even exist yet. We can build a factory inside another factory.

“It is a different, more exciting place to have a career, welcoming all people of diverse talents and backgrounds.

“It is however, a source of some pride for us to see the name Rover when it was based at Clitheroe, as our first contract in the county.

“That may have been in 1943, but it is a link from our shared past to our shared future.

“No-one can doubt that both construction and car manufacturing have both revolutionised in that time.”

BAM opened its first dedicated office in the North West in 1976, and is now based in Salford.

The region employs around 150 people directly and provides work for around a further 1000 per year through its supply chain. The North West region turns over approximately £100 million every year, while the parent, BAM Construct UK, turns over around one billion.

Both are part of the international Royal BAM Group, which employs around 20,000 people and turns over around six billion Euros. Its work across the North West includes Manchester City’s training academy and the 
Co-operative Group HQ.

Ian Fleming added: “Innovation is a major theme in the immediate future, as is attracting a more diverse workforce, and continuing to be the most collaborative and versatile contractor, able to integrate all the disciplines that create our build environment.

“You cannot ask for better challenges.”