Blog: Project management – like never before! The technical team behind the Social Bite Village



Gill Henry, head of business development at The Cruden Group and project director of the Social Bite Village
Gill Henry, head of business development at The Cruden Group and project director of the Social Bite Village

In February of this year, Gill Henry, head of business development at The Cruden Group, agreed to take on the role of project director for the Social Bite Village in Edinburgh.

This exciting project is translating Social Bite’s co-founder, Josh Littlejohn’s vision to eradicate homelessness, into reality.

Initially agreeing to work pro-bono one day a week, Gill’s task was to oversee the design, manufacture and on-site delivery of a new community in Granton.

Inevitably, her role has grown exponentially as the project has developed and after several months of leading the technical team, she now takes this opportunity to explain some of the challenges and pressures of making this unique project actually happen.

From a standing start at the end of February this year, using contacts and relationships built up over many years by The Cruden Group, we assembled a multi-disciplined team without whom the project would simply not be where it is today.

In addition, we are also very fortunate that the profile of this project allowed us to engage much more closely than normal with both Scottish Power and Scottish Water, who, along with utility contractor, Clancy Dowcra, have joined the technical team and are working collaboratively with us to make this all happen.

The Social Bite Village technical team
The Social Bite Village technical team

Technical Team

  • Gill Henry – The Cruden Group – Project Director
  • Gill Cooke & Andy Nolan – Will Rudd – Project Engineers
  • Mike Armstrong – Pottie Wilson – Project Cost consultant
  • David Bell – Fouin & Bell – Project Architects
  • Anthony Keenan – Peter Graham & Partners – Principal Designer
  • James Culbertson and Kevin Keenan – Keenan Consultancy – Project M&E advisors
  • Tina Muldowney – Wardell Armstrong – Project Landscape Architect
  • Patrick Barry – Mason Evans – Site Investigation Consultants
  • Matt Stevenson – Carbon Dynamic – Nest house manufacturer
  • Jonathan Avery – Tiny House Scotland – Nest house designer
  • Bob Gould & Ronnie Bathgate – Robertson Group – Groundworker

The team has worked tirelessly to finalise the design of the nest houses with Tiny House designer Jonathon Avery and Carbon Dynamic who are manufacturing the units, develop the site layout, develop and brief and design for the hub, develop the site works and cut and fill design to minimise costs and to secure all necessary consents.

Identifying a suitable principal contractor has also been challenging as we are benefitting from so many free services and materials which the principal/main contractor will be required to co-ordinate.  Luckily we have the knowledge and experience of Mike Armstrong assisting in contractual arrangements which are slightly less standard than normal contracts.

Co-ordinating all of the above, in parallel with structuring legal agreements for the site with landowner EDI, finalising the necessary contracts for the various work packages and managing the site utilities to ensure the project is deliverable, has required a significant amount of resource, commitment and leadership from The Cruden Group.

The proposed site is currently overgrown, self seeded and has a significant slope from top to bottom.  It is also a well used through route for both pedestrians and cyclists. Because the village is temporary, it has been really important to minimise the cost of the infra-structure. We also have to obtain a caravan licence to allow Social Bite to occupy the village.  Working under caravan legislation, we don’t need a building warrant for the structures, just the drainage, which has significantly helped us to achieve the end date for completion.

Led by Gill Cooke, the project engineers Will Rudd worked closely with Mason Evans to identify how best to deal with the ground conditions in a manner that would produce a robust solution on a temporary basis whilst still meeting all the legislative requirements.

The units themselves are very light,  so the groundworks strategy involves scraping back the site, carrying out an extensive cut and fill exercise to platform the site for the units to sit on.  The excess material will be stored on site in a mound so we don’t have to take anything off site, which helps keep the site works cost as low as possible. The point loads of each unit are such that standard foundations are not required, just a layer of hardcore.

The project is gathering significant momentum now. We are currently finalising a Heads of Terms with EDI for the site and the plan is to now to get the project complete for the end of January 2018 – which is slightly later than originally planned but still only 10 months in total. We are aiming to demonstrate how this very innovative project can be delivered and then potentially rolled out on a more commercial basis.

However with this in mind we have been able to work, freed from the normal shackles and look at how to do things better, quicker and more innovatively.  It has demanded true partnership working and collaboration which I feel is one of the best outcomes of the project so far.  With everyone so supportive of the vision, we are all working outwith our normal comfort zones to make the project happen.

At time of writing, we are now in week 29 of the project and if I am being honest, I really did not think we would be at this stage so quickly when we didn’t even have a site, brief or design at the beginning of March.



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