Fast Track Projects

Category: Frameworks

Anthony Gell School, Roofing Repair Works

Award winning scheme demonstrating excellence in customer service, customer understanding and collaboration to deliver urgent fast track works to a live school.

Anthony Gell School is a coeducational secondary school and sixth form located in Wirksworth, Derbyshire. It began as a Free Grammar School established by Anthony Gell in 1576. The school moved to its present site in 1908 and became a voluntary controlled school in 1944.

The building was designed by the distinguished county architect George H Widdows. It was one of a large number of new schools built to Widdows’ designs by Derbyshire County Council in the early 20th century. 

Widdows was at the forefront of the movement to build schools in which high standards of hygiene were as important as educational provision following 1907 legislation brought in by the Board of Health. Widdows developed a series of innovative designs introducing high levels of natural daylight and effective cross ventilation in schools. 

The school is understandably very proud of its building’s design and history, with a keen interest in preserving its heritage. 

When we were made aware of the project the school had been operating with structural propping in both front entrances to support two gabled roofs, which had suffered structural issues as a result of sub-standard roofing works, with some unstable Ashlar masonry to the front facade. 

Not only was the propping at the entrances causing inconvenience to the school and students, having been in place for over two years following the Covid-19 pandemic. The ongoing issues with the damaged roof had also left two vital teaching spaces unusable. These spaces were usually used for music tuition and provided private spaces for student counselling sessions. This meant the school had to run a bus service to music lessons off site and incurred the extra costs associated, and students’ access to critical counselling sessions was restricted during this time.  

Pre-Construction 

We discussed procurement options available with Derbyshire County Council and their consultants Concertus. 

The decision was taken to use direct award through the SCAPE framework. This procurement route allowed us to provide Derbyshire County Council with early contractor and supply chain involvement through a free feasibility report on the project. This included an initial programme review, high level costings, review of logistics and the proposed completion timeline. 

Throughout the pre-construction four week period we completed surveys and investigations of the works, to ensure full understanding of the project parameters, and aligned the programme to robust details. We engaged our expert local supply chain to develop the scope and deployed our own direct workforce to resource the scheme, ensuring we could get moving on site quickly. 

We managed the risk of the roof collapsing and potential water ingress during the works through developing a temporary works design and ensuring suitable protection.

Construction

To begin the works we assisted the appointed structural engineers with the design to completely replace the roofs.

We formed good early working relationships with the school business manager and premises manager to ensure we understood the specific environment, safeguarding requirements and restrictions. We designed our site compound with minimal cabins and area required, and programmed our works to fit around the school schedule, with the project completing in time for the new academic year.  

Scaffold was installed allowing access to the entrances. The project required works to be carried out above each entrance to the school. These works were programmed to ensure one entrance could always remain in operation, causing minimal disruption.

We worked very closely with Concertus, the structural engineer and the building control officer, who attended the site regularly to inspect and sign off the works.

New roof timbers and valleys were installed, whilst new lead work was fitted to the valleys and rear of the Ashlar facade. A new breathable membrane was also installed. The new roof structure was attached to the masonry with metal straps and plates. The Ashlar stone was keyed into the building using helifix stainless steel rods and specialist mortar / resin as was the internal brickwork. New aluminium windows with masonry support systems were installed with fire stopping as directed by Concertus.

Re-pointing of the masonry was carried out as directed by the structural engineer. Internally, the two rooms were insulated, boarded and skimmed, new skirtings, window boards and pipe boxings were installed. Both rooms were decorated and fitted with new carpets.

Throughout the works we kept everyone on site updated with the day’s activities with daily meetings, email and phone conversations. We were also issued with a school walkie talkie for daily comms. 

Feedback & Positive Outcomes

The service, communication and quality of work were excellent throughout. In particular the site management by Andy Whitehead surpassed all expectations. It was an absolute pleasure to work with Andy and all of the team at Stepnell. In addition we received very positive feedback from school. There were no defects. All works were completed within the programme. Colin Bridges, Senior Building Surveyor – Concertus Design and Property Consultants Ltd

“I want to thank the construction team for all the hard work you have put in over the last few months to improve our school premises. Our students can now enjoy being in these classrooms, in a clean and bright environment. There is always some crisis to overcome in a school building and to have contractors who know what they are doing, tackle whatever comes their way with good humour and get the job done is a real bonus and much appreciated. Thanks for your hard work, expertise, and positive attitude.” Holly Walker-Riggott, School Business Manager – Anthony Gell School

Award Winning

The Anthony Gell scheme was awarded ‘Customer Service Excellence’ at the SCAPE Partner Celebration.

KPI’s

  • Zero RIDDORs – 100%
  • SMEs – 100%
  • Service Pre-Con Satisfaction Score – 9/10
  • Product Pre-Con Satisfaction Score – 10/10
  • Value For Money Pre-Con Satisfaction Score 10/10
  • Service Construction Satisfaction Score – 10/10
  • Product Construction Satisfaction Score – 10/10
  • Value For Money Construction Satisfaction Score – 10/10

Social Economic benefits

At Anthony Gell School, apprentice joiner Dale Martin spoke to six groups of Y10 students about his career journey, the work we were doing on the school roof, the traditional joinery techniques he was learning and has to demonstrate for his apprenticeship. Two groups managed to build the highest LEGO towers we have ever seen, topping over two metres!

Highlights included: 

  • Employability session with Derbyshire North Youth Hub for 16-25yo
  • Careers guidance for over 50s returning to work with DWP JobCentre Plus
  • Future Makers Mentoring
  • 5 weeks of apprentice training for Level 2 joinery
  • 5 mock assessment centre brick tower challenge workshops delivered to Y10 at Anthony Gell School
  • 69% local spend within 20 miles

Perfect Scores for Considerate Constructor Stepnell

Category: Construction

Complete construction partner Stepnell has achieved several ‘Excellent’ Considerate Constructors Scheme (CCS) scores, including a company record of four perfect scores in the same year.

The Considerate Constructors Scheme sets out criteria to score project sites on appearance, how well the workforce is treated, how the community is integrated and respected, and how much care is taken for the environment.

Several projects completed by the Stepnell team have contributed to the achievement, including a perfect score of 45/45 for works to create a new home venue for St Bernadette’s rugby club in Bristol. An additional two innovation points have been added on top of this score in recognition of Stepnell’s commitment to collaboration.

The site team embarked on a programme of community outreach in an effort to improve relationships with local residents following anti-social behaviour experienced on site. This included a community open day and barbeque; serving 300 local residents, regular food bank donations and careers talk for local colleges. The Stepnell team also partnered with social enterprise Community Kit Bag to provide low cost and free sports clothes, and equipment to residents.

The project team also donated insulation materials to charity Help Bristol’s Homeless and organised a free community nutrition workshop for local parents.

Tom Wakeford, managing director of Stepnell said: “Our teams work tirelessly to ensure every project that we work on has our stamp of quality. Whether its education, healthcare or energy sector projects, we’ve consistently exceeded in value delivery. These commitments continue to receive positive feedback from clients and neighbouring communities and are key to securing repeat works with our public and private sector clients.

“These CCS score achievements provide that additional confidence for clients in the quality of the projects that we deliver, reassured that maximising value is the Stepnell way. The score also factors in sustainability, which is in line with Stepnell’s ISO 50001 accreditation in energy management and commitment to being carbon net-zero by 2050.”

Another perfect score was awarded for Northampton Market Square, a project in which the team have worked hard to maintain positive relationships with the community and local stakeholders. The score was achieved through aspects such as a safe public project viewing area, the appointment of a dedicated key relationship manager and local charity donations from the Stepnell team and project supply chain.

Other high scoring projects include Stepnell’s mixed-use St Peter’s redevelopment in Bristol, achieving a score of 45/45. The project comprised of 15 houses and ten flats in the Henleaze area and showcased strong local community engagement. The CCS report noted the site team as being positively engaged with the local community, having developed strong relationships with a range of groups in the area, including Bristol Community Arts charity, who has organised a community mural painting on the site hoarding.

At Woodfield School in Surrey, the Stepnell team achieved a CCS score of 43/45. A large factor in this came from the team ensuring the student’s learning experience was not damaged by distractions from the construction work taking place. This included ensuring a forest garden remained a safe space for the pupils to use and escape to throughout the works. The site was also commended for embracing inclusion and diversity through its facilities and policies.  

As part of Stepnell’s focus on public sector projects, the midlands teams’ work on the elective hub at Warwick Hospital achieved a score of 41/45. Activity highlights included undertaking volunteer days with planting hedges at Ryton Pools and painting existing hospital buildings.

Additionally, the project at the Nuclear AMRC research facility at Infinity Park in Derby achieved a CCS score of 43/45 due to the excellent compliance achieved across all relevant scoring criteria. Specifically, the project was commended for embracing the local area’s requirements and environmental factors including carbon zero objectives.

Frameworks: Why relationships are still the kingmaker

Category: Frameworks

As we continue to see an increase in projects tendered through frameworks in many areas of the built environment, there are plenty of benefits of forging longstanding relationships with framework providers.

This is a topic our preconstruction and framework director Lewis Archibald recently gave his thoughts on to top industry publication, Public Sector Build Journal.

In this piece, Lewis talks us through his belief that, as the principles of the Construction Playbook become more ingrained across the industry, the project improvement, reduced costs, better value and greater community involvement brought about by these longstanding relationships mean that this approach will be critical. Lewis’ full piece can be read below.

It’s now been three years since the first iteration of the Construction Playbook was launched in the runup to Christmas in 2020. That initial document has since been updated and supplemented with a companion piece in “Constructing the Gold Standard”, but the 14 key policies that it set out for how the government should deliver public works projects and programmes have become the commandments by which public sector procurement is living.

With the extensive support that frameworks now provide, established relationships and communication is beyond valuable when companies are trying to procure in line with best value, sustainability measures and social value delivery, all of which are particularly pertinent in the current socio-economic climate.

SMOOTHING THE PROCESS

Far from being the red tape they were once perceived as being, frameworks have actually engendered the kind of collaborative approaches and early dialogue that many used to believe they prevented. Naturally, there are huge benefits for contractors and consultants in having strong and longstanding relationships with framework providers, but the positives run both ways. Having open two-way dialogue between the framework and the supplier means that intelligence and experience can be shared, which in turn gets passed down to the clients.

We are regularly having conversations with framework professionals about whether single or two-stage procurement is the right approach for a given project, or which types of consultants need to be engaged at which stage in the process for a specific style of build. By having these conversations and enabling decisions to be made much earlier in the process, it’s a win-win for the client and the framework, as they are empowered by knowledge shared by subject matter experts.

This makes the whole process a lot smoother for all concerned and can help avoid situations where clients end up taking the wrong procurement route and find themselves in a tangle. For example, a client may take what they perceive as the path of least resistance with a single stage tender on a design and build refurbishment, only to find that whoever the chosen contractor partner is will simply price the risk that those kinds of projects are loaded with. However, by engaging earlier and having those conversations around procurement routes, they would find that two-stage would have been the better option as it allows the contractor to assess the risk, look at options for mitigating it and find a best value solution.

SOCIAL VALUE

These strong relationships also prove instrumental when it comes to social value delivery – a key tenet of any public sector project. As well as helping clients make the most informed decisions in respect to the project team of contractor and consultants, proper engagement at an early stage means that social value action plans can start to coalesce in a way that means it can be embedded from day one of the project.

If a contractor is in a position where it can liaise with both the key stakeholders for social value both within and outside the client organisation, they can be in position to ensure that processes are in place to ensure those stakeholders are involved throughout the project and aren’t passed over when it comes to important decisions.

This kind of approach is essential to delivering true social value. If the contractor is kept at arm’s length until a later stage, the timescales for everything are condensed, and this can lead to less focus being placed on social value at the expense of project delivery.

However, if that contractor has the change to actually engage with the people that that are going to benefit from the project, they are able to work out what can make a tangible difference and deliver longer-term improvements. This is far more beneficial than rushed initiatives that may have a short-term impact but don’t leave the lasting legacy that public sector schemes hang their hats on.

IN IT TO WIN IT

Having been in the construction industry for more than 30 years, I’ve seen the way public sector procurement has evolved, and frameworks have been a huge part of this.

Public sector procurement has evolved in the last decade and a half – in part driven by the likes of the Construction Playbook – firmly towards a “framework first” approach. Those looking to be involved in public sector projects now understand that clients are looking for added value around the procurement of their projects and that frameworks are the ideal platform to deliver this, backed up by measurable targets that are enforced by framework providers to give assurance on the client’s behalf.

As well as opening up a wider range of options for public sector clients and – consequently – a wider pool of potential projects for contractors and consultants, the benefits of more transparent procurement are clear to see, and contractors need to understand the added value approach when it comes to frameworks if they are to have success in the public sector.

Bilton Grange site visit

Category: Construction

The pupils of Bilton Grange Preparatory School had an exciting opportunity to visit a live construction site, right on their own school grounds, where we are currently undertaking the construction of a new boarding house for seven to 13-year-olds.

Organised by the site team, the tour was both educational and engaging. We ensured the safety of the pupils by setting up a secure and segregated area for their visit. During the visit, the pupils had the chance to meet various members of the team, including Eddie Cronshaw, the project manager, Sharon Symons, the senior administrator, and Tom Cronshaw, the trainee quantity surveyor. They provided insightful talks and information about the construction process.

One of the highlights of the visit was the opportunity for the pupils to learn about different construction plant items such as small excavators, dumpers, and rollers. They were able to observe these machines in action and ask questions about how they work. The presence of groundworks contractor R O’Donaghey added to the experience, as they demonstrated first hand how the plant machinery operates.

Overall, it was a fantastic day for both the pupils and the staff involved. With the construction site located on the school premises, the pupils will have the unique opportunity to witness the entire construction process, from its inception to completion. This hands-on experience will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression on the young minds of Bilton Grange Preparatory School.

Accommodating for Badgers

Category: Construction

When developing land, it is important to understand the implications it may have on wildlife and natural habitats. Badgers can be a common issue, and, as a protected species, the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 sets out how badgers and their setts (tunnels and chambers where they live) must be safely accommodated for.

Sheona Green, sustainability manager gives advice on the appropriate measures to avoid, mitigate and, as a last resort, compensate for any negative effects on badgers.

It is an offence to take, injure or kill a badger.  It is also an offence to intentionally or recklessly damage, destroy or obstruct access to a badger sett. This includes any disturbance within 30 metres of the sett.

An ecology report will identify whether badger activity is suspected on site. A further survey may then be required. If a badger sett has been identified on the site then the ecologist will initially determine the type of badger setts (part of the main sett, an outlier sett, or a subsidiary sett). They’ll also determine whether the sett is currently in use. Even if it’s not currently occupied, if there are signs of badgers nearby, the sett remains protected.

If you can accommodate the badger sett area safely within your development, mitigation is more straight forward. Should you wish to close the sett, you’ll need a badger licence.

RETAINING SETTS

Assuming you can retain the sett safely, including 30-metre buffer zone, the following measures are likely:

  • During construction, install fencing to protect the sett area. Badgers must be able to pass underneath or through the fence.
  • Don’t let artificial lighting fall on the badger sett, during or after construction. 
  • You might need to plant additional trees and shrubs close to the badger sett, mitigating against lost foraging areas. 
  • Don’t position footpaths, benches, and play areas close to the setts. 
  • Create unlit ‘green corridors’ to help badgers access their existing foraging habitat.
  • Further compensation measures might be necessary if your development would destroy further badger foraging areas.

WHEN DO YOU NEED A BADGER LICENCE?

Should your development plan impact on the land within 30 metres of the setts, badger mitigation becomes more complex. If you’re proposing hole closures, you’ll need a licence from Natural England and if more than 50% of the identified holes and setts need to be closed, an artificial sett may be required.

Your ecologist will help you to acquire a licence and install an artificial sett. Under the terms of the licence, you’ll undertake all work between July and the end of October.

The artificial sett must be in place for six months before the original sett is closed. It’s typical to place a one-way gate over the entrance of the sett so that badgers can leave but not return. Every day for 21 days, the sett must be checked. If badgers have dug back in again, the process starts from the beginning.

Once the badger sett is finally confirmed empty and a successful 21-day period has passed, you can dig it up, under supervision. You must do this promptly to prevent badgers returning and being at risk.

Example above of a badger relocation to an artificial badger sett on one of our projects.

Example above of a complete artificial badger sett on one of our projects.

Works commence on mental health ward refurbishment 

Category: Frameworks

Refurbishment works at Walton Hospital, Chesterfield, to create a dedicated ward for older adults with functional mental health issues in Derbyshire has started on site by complete construction partner Stepnell.

Previously vacant, the £3.7 million refurbishment of Bluebell Ward provides capacity for the relocation of patients from Pleasley Ward at the Hartington Unit on the Chesterfield Royal Hospital site, three miles across the town.

Delivering via the Procure Partnerships Framework (PPF) for Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (DHCFT), the project will create a 12-bedroom older adult mental health facility with single ensuite rooms. The ward is for functional older adults, and once completed, the functional and organic older adult services will be co-located in the same building.

Tom Sewell, regional director at Stepnell, said: “The refurbishment of Bluebell Ward signifies the latest project that we are completing for an NHS Foundation Trust, and we are proud of our long-standing reputation for delivering successful healthcare projects across the country using our local expertise. We are helping to enhance the offering of locally accessible specialist services, as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.”

Tom Woolley, key account manager for the east at Procure Partnerships Framework, added: “Procure Partnerships Framework is delighted to see work is underway on the refurbishment of Bluebell Ward for Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. Our partners are experts in healthcare schemes and have worked incredibly hard in the planning stages to ensure the facility is set to become a welcoming, safe and sustainable environment for the patients of Bluebell Ward. We are excited to see this scheme come to life and the long-lasting benefit it will bring to the community of Chesterfield.”

Set to complete this July, the refurbishment adapts the existing structure of Bluebell Ward to achieve a fit-for-purpose design that follows the same building principles for new mental health units, completing under the Making Room for Dignity programme.

Stepnell is undertaking the works with multi-disciplinary construction consultancy EDGE. Charlotte Dennish, cost manager at EDGE, said: “Our healthcare specialist team is proud to be working alongside Stepnell to deliver an environment that promotes wellbeing and safety, improving the patient experience. EDGE is delighted to be delivering Bluebell Ward as part of the wider Making Room for Dignity programme, ensuring consistent quality standards and patient environments.

“By working with ex-service user Nick Richards on the project, we’ve been able to learn from his lived experience and ensure that the space is optimised to support older adults with mental health challenges, while also providing a welcoming environment for all who will use the service.”

The project is part of the government’s Dormitory Education Programme, which DHCFT names the ‘Making Room for Dignity’ programme, to eradicate dormitory accommodation in mental health facilities, ensuring that patients receive the appropriate safety, privacy and dignity to treat mental illnesses.

Andy Harrison, senior responsible owner at Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are delighted to have commenced the work to our refurbished ward at Walton Hospital for the older adults of Derbyshire who require inpatient support for functional mental health needs. Not only will the co-location with organic mental health services mean access to specialist older people clinicians but also a safer ward environment with increased privacy and dignity.”

SCAPE Partner Celebration Event

Category: Frameworks

We were thrilled to attend the SCAPE Partner Celebration Dinner last night alongside our fellow framework partners. Held at the stunning Nottingham Council House it was a fantastic evening of celebration for the many incredible achievements of the partners throughout the year.

We were absolutely delighted to bring home a hat trick of trophies for our work:

EXCELLENCE IN CUSTOMER SERVICE

This award is for a project, a team or an individual that has delivered superior services for our clients. The winners foster long term, trusted relationships, delivering great results through the way they operate and their working methods.

Winner: Stepnell for the Anthony Gell School in Derbyshire

Testimonial directly from the client:

“I wanted to thank the construction team for all the hard work you have put in over the last few months to improve our school premises. Our students can now enjoy being in these classrooms, in a clean and bright environment. There is always some crisis to overcome in a school building and to have contractors in who know what they are doing, tackle whatever comes their way with good humour and get the job done is a real bonus and much appreciated. Thanks for your hard work, expertise, and positive attitude.”

VALUE THROUGH FRAMEWORKS

Team SCAPE believes in providing value to the public sector through our frameworks. The nature of our frameworks allows us all to work at pace, to be innovative, and collaborate across the industry. This award celebrates the power of collaboration.

Highly Commended: Joint award for Sue Woollett of Stepnell and Emma Wardell of Lindum for collaborating to deliver community benefits.

“Lindum and Stepnell have been instrumental in the development of the Regional Construction Framework Community Legacy Programme. They are helping to develop two social value initiatives – a mentoring programme and a construction careers event due to take place later this year. The two individuals have been a driving force in taking lead on sub-groups activities, sharing previous best practices and resources, and generally leading from the front which has been invaluable.”

SUSTAINABILITY

Team SCAPE is committed to helping the built environment industry achieve decarbonisation, providing net zero procurement solutions to accelerate projects. This award celebrates our partners’ net zero initiatives and their ongoing work to support a more sustainable future.

Highly Commended: Stepnell

“We want to recognise Stepnell for their work and determination to embed both the Construction Waste Portal and PAS 402 into their waste management supplier requirements and process. Stepnell really are using the power of procurement to drive both sustainability and resource efficiency in their projects. Well done to the delivery partner for setting a great example and pushing forward the sustainability agenda.”

For many years, SCAPE frameworks have provided clients with a compliant route to market, through which they have created strong and sustainable legacies for their communities – but this wouldn’t be possible without the hard work, dedication and enthusiasm from the framework partners and their teams.

We were very proud to be a part of this event celebrating some of the outstanding contributions made by the partners, which continue to ensure SCAPE and its frameworks are a success.

Interested in working with us on SCAPE? Click here to find out more.

SCAPE Social Value

Category: Frameworks

We were appointed to the SCAPE regional construction framework in August 2022, since our appointment we have generated £3.3m of social value across our SCAPE projects.

The SCAPE benchmarking report “Building on the foundations: Social Value In Construction 2022” pointed out that when recording social value using the Social Value Portal’s TOM system “most projects use between 2-4 measures, suggesting that the range of measures used is generally quite limited and that typically only 1-2 social measures are likely to be used”. 

At Stepnell during 2023, we have generated social value on our SCAPE projects from 12 different SVP TOM measures across three themes: jobs, growth and social. This variety ensures that the communities in which we live and work benefit widely from our presence, not just from good quality construction.

94% of our social value was generated through spending almost £3.4m in the local economy with subcontractors and supply chain partners who are located within 20 miles of the projects. We also used three social enterprises – Ethical Superstore, Community Wood Recycling and Nuneaton Signs and engaged with a fourth to help them understand social value in construction.

A further 4% was through employing local people. With the CITB reporting that 67% of UK construction workers travel more than 21 miles to work, local employment not only benefits our employees but also the environment.

Our investment in our people and our emerging talent made up 1% of the social value. As an Investor in People Gold award holder, we take on new apprentices each year as well as upskilling our existing employees through HNC, university and other professional qualifications.

Our donations-in-kind totalled over £4,000 and included a piece of artwork, and a cake and decorations for the opening ceremony of the waiting area and landscaped courtyard for Kettering General Hospital’s breast cancer unit. We helped set up the baby bank for Kettering Community Unit Charity.

Last but by no means least is our impact on the wider community through direct contact with schools and colleges.

  • Almost 800 young people have seen us at a careers fair at their school
  • Over 700 primary school children enjoyed our Stay Safe assembly to learn about safety around building sites; 15 of the posters they created afterwards to inform other children were displayed on their school fences.
  • 250 young people have taken part in workshops at our office or in their school where we have introduced them to pathways into construction and challenged them with a team tower building task where they can demonstrate their leadership, teamwork, design, planning and problem solving skills. 
  • 20 students from 2 SEND schools and 9 from an alternative education provider have visited our office
  • 34 young people have had mock interviews
  • 50 students have benefited from a 2-hour CV workshop at their school
  • 30 young people took part in a Dragon’s Den Style Enterprise Day
  • 14 of our people, including 3 apprentices, have taken part in educating young people about careers in construction

Some highlights from these impressive figures include:

Mock Interviews

Derby Moor Academy held a mock interviews day for their Y11 students. Twelve were interviewed by us over the course of the day. There were some very impressive students in the group. 

We helped Year 10 students at Belper School and Y12 students at Landau Forte College have their first experience of interviews, providing feedback to help them improve.

Careers Fairs

As the end of the academic year approached, there was a flurry of activities in local schools with careers fairs at Littleover Community School and West Park School, Spondon.

Working with the DWP

During the summer holidays the work didn’t stop. We partnered with the DWP Youth Hub in Chesterfield to help three young people aged 16-25yo who are Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET) to find out how to prepare themselves better for work, through personal branding, deeper understanding of the recruitment process and interview questions.

Primary Schools

We have done three “site safety” assemblies in primary schools we are working on through our SCAPE projects, the Derby City Schools Capital Works Programme. The children enjoyed dressing up in hi-viz, hard hats, goggles and ear defenders. We launched a site safety poster competition in each school. 

The winning site safety posters from pupils were enlarged and printed onto correx board. We hung them on the school fences so everyone walking along the busy pathways can see their fabulous artwork. 

Lego Workshops

At Anthony Gell School, apprentice joiner Dale Martin spoke to six groups of Y10 students about his career journey, the work we were doing on the school roof, the traditional joinery techniques he is learning and has to demonstrate for his apprenticeship. Two groups managed to build the highest Lego towers we have ever seen, topping over two metres!

Stepnell Office Workshops

City of Derby Academy visited our Nottingham office with a second set of students who are working towards their Construction GCSE. The workshop was led by assistant estimator Luke Walsh, with aftercare manager Shaun Moses and IT systems analyst Divyesh Valend taking part in the speed networking. On the way back to school, the students visited Nuclear AMRC at Infinity Park and were given a site tour by site manager Matt King.

Enterprise Day 

Luke Walsh visited Landau College in Derby for an Enterprise Day, a dragon’s den style activity which saw the students set up an imaginary company. They had to think about what they would sell and how, including marketing and finance, and put together a presentation. There were some impressive ideas, including the winners whose company was based on sales of collars for pets so owners can see where they are going.

Support for VCSEs

Social value manager Sue Woollett visited Upbeat Cleaning in Derby, a local social enterprise which helps women refugees into work through cleaning for local businesses. The meeting helped Michael Gladwell, founder of the social enterprise understand how he could use businesses’ social value commitments to encourage them to use the services Upbeat Cleaning offers.

Baby Bank

We supported Kettering Community Unit Charity who provide training, education and support to improve the lives of people in the Kettering community. Our team helped collect, donate and create a baby bank area, which adds to their already impressive portfolio of amazing work.

Horizons Sixth Form

In the centre of Derby is a unique and very special place, Horizons Sixth Form. Not an ordinary school or college, Horizons helps students with special educational needs and disabilities towards realising their potential. Alongside developing skills in independent living and day to day finance, the students gain work experience in a printing business and learn to be baristas. Sue Woollett visited Horizons to find out more, and to invite the students to join us for a workplace experience, in line with our social value commitments to Derby City Council

Blue Monday is a myth

Category: People

January’s third Monday, “Blue Monday”, is thought to be the most depressing day of the year. Spoiler: it isn’t. Let’s look after our mental health against commercial influences.

The mental health foundation documents that Blue Monday is a PR stunt that was originally dreamed up to sell holidays! Mental health ‘good and bad’ days are individual to each of us.

With that understanding we asked our internal Wellbeing forum, made up of our mental health first aiders, social value managers and HR team members to tell us about how they manage their own mental health, tips and advice they feel works well for them.

Some great advice is given around science backed areas such as exercise, diet, sleep, self-talk, work life balance, volunteering and the importance of social connections.

Emma Hull, Exec PA said

‘I have found that diet is really important to me, especially the older I get! There are so many hormones pumped into processed food which I discovered when I started perimenopause, as they can cause havoc in your already imbalanced hormones. So eating as pure as you can. (I am no saint and stress eat sugar but I always feel awful afterwards which just goes to show how bad it is for you)

Also I am not embarrassed to cry anymore, and if somebody asks me how I am, I tell them truthfully.

Tony Smith, SHE Manager said

‘I try and take my breaks away from my desk, go for a walk when not working and explore the outdoors. For me it’s all about a work life balance and enjoying my hobbies, both on my own or with family and friends. If you are under pressure, plan your workload, learn to ask for help if you can see you’re not going to hit a deadline, learn to say no without feeling bad.’

A group member said

For me its exercise and talking, I try and walk every lunchtime, getting fresh air and moving away from the workplace for a proper break, it also gets in your steps. I run every day too. I find if I don’t exercise like Emma says with sugar, you feel rotten. I have lost over 2 stone since August last year and have never felt better. I also make sure to talk about work etc with my partner and encourage honesty whilst doing so.’

Lindsay Maartens, Social Value Manager said

‘A huge part of my mental health is helping others. It gives me a sense of purpose and a feeling that I am part of something, that I can make a difference in someone’s day. But importantly getting a good night’s sleep too. I know that if my sleep is disturbed then I’m not in a good place and something is out of balance in my life, equally if I’m not getting good sleep then my mind and body take on a lot more stress.’

Mark Baker, Site Manager said

‘I like to go for a walk take a break for 15/30 minutes from the day to day activities. Even having a coffee or cup of tea in a different environment can help me refocus myself. I then go back with a calmer more settled approach.’

Victoria Burton, Bid Writer said

I have various ways of looking after my mental health – exercise, listening to podcasts, connecting with close friends, spending time with family, volunteering. I think it’s really important to find ways to distract yourself when things get on top of you, so you can get out of your own head and refocus.

Sheona Macmillan, Sustainability Manager said

I, in general love to stay busy, with several activities planned during the week after work and at the weekend. This helps with maintaining a healthy work/life balance. These activities include exercise and fresh air, brain stimulating games, and seeing friends. Another measure I have built in is ‘to do’ lists and making sure I tick off completed items. When things get tough, I will schedule dedicated time for certain work tasks to help with the workload, but also it is extremely important to talk and I am pleased to say that I have some very good work colleagues that I can call friends who help at these times. Talking with family and friends is very helpful for me and eating good food. If a difficult decision is weighing heavily on me, I find pros and cons list are helpful. And as Tony said, know when to say no and manage time expectations is empowering not a sign of weakness.

Hania Knox, HR & Training Support said

Away from the office I will take time out to have a read, do a spot of craft or just relax watching a good film.

Paul Stokes, Senior Estimator said

‘My main two tips have always been to get out and exercise. For me that is running but try and find what you enjoy whilst getting those endorphins flowing. The other is to talk to people, if you are lucky enough to have a good listening friend, or family member, you can offload your worries to then do!

Another thing we often suggest at Mind, and it’s easier said than done, is to try and not worry. They always ask people to think about how many times in life you’ve worried, lost sleep over, panicked about a problem and then it’s been as bad as your mind has built it up to be when it came to fruition. Not many! So try and keep yourself occupied and relax a little. It took me years to do this right but it works!’

Gemma Meekings, Marketing Manager said

‘Questioning negative thinking, negative self-talk, and stopping unhelpful trains of thought in general. A few years ago I did a lot of work on my own mental health and a huge learning for me was the human brain’s tendency to always look for the negative, (automatic negative thoughts). Our brains have been hardwired through evolution to focus on the negative. Traced back to prehistoric days, primitive man had to be able to register threats to avoid danger and increase survival rates. In the modern day, left unchecked these automatic thoughts can generate emotions such as anxiety, sadness, frustration, guilt, shame, anger, or unworthiness. I try my best to talk back internally, ‘is this thought true? Can I absolutely know that it is true? How would I feel if I didn’t have this thought?’

At Stepnell we provide a range of support for employees mental and physical health, including a comprehensive employee assistance programme, which gives employees free access to unlimited mental health consultations, 24/7 remote GP appointments, physiotherapy, 1-2-1 lifestyle coaching, financial and legal guidance, everyday savings and discounts, 1-2-1 personal training and nutritional consultations.

Market Square receives top CCS score

Category: Construction

The Northampton Market Square Enhancement project for client West Northamptonshire Council (WNC) has received a perfect score of 45/45 from the Considerate Contractors Scheme.

The scheme, which has been procured through the Procure Partnerships Framework is located at the heart of the town. Northampton’s Market Square is set to be transformed to better reflect the wonderful, historic public space that it is. As well as the use of high-quality paving and materials, the improved facilities will include a flexible event space, 18 new bespoke fixed stalls, pop up stalls, planting including semi mature trees, tiered seating and an interactive water feature.

On a typical day there are 30 members of the workforce on site and these include five undertaking level 6/7 degrees in construction/commercial, a graduate engineer and placement student.

The assessor commented on the second visit:

The site team have addressed all aspects of the checklist to a very high standard. Overall, this is an excellent site with all three sections, scoring as excellent and a perfect score of 45/45. The overall appearance of the site continues to give a positive and professional impression and the workforce seen during the visit do so as well. The team have an excellent working relationship with key stakeholders and their neighbours and are making a very positive contribution with a well thought out social value plan which the team are tracking their achievements against. There are very good environmental systems in place to protect and enhance the environment. The site offers a very supportive and caring work environment and are committed to supporting those undertaking formal training and development.

I would like to thank the Senior Project Manager, Assistant Site Manager and Senior Administrator for their time on the day. I would like to say a very well done to the site team and the workforce for achieving the score of 45/45.

Key elements of good practice highlighted include:

  • A designated safe viewing area allows members of the public to see into the site and the management team, if available will come across and chat to them about the work that is underway and answer any questions they might have.
  • The social value plan includes how the site is promoting construction positively. The team have supported Hunsbury Primary School with designing health and safety posters which are displayed on the hoarding with some pupils attending a site visit. The site team have attended six schools to deliver STEM activities for KS1 and 2.
  • The site currently have a ‘because we care’ wall offering warm clothes donated by the team and supply chain to the local community.
  • A dedicated key relationship manager is assigned for local stakeholder communication, regularly visiting shops, businesses and residents surrounding the site, hand delivering the latest site newsletter, discussing upcoming events on site, any disruption they may experience and answering any questions.
  • VCSE ‘Community Wood Recycling’ is in place in respect of the pallets.
  • The organisation have recently obtained ISO 50001 and will be using these principals on this project.
  • The organisation have developed a sustainability management workbook for the supply chain to use to recognise their own carbon footprint which is reported on using Biosite/Smartwaste.

Toys on the Table

Category: Frameworks

We are delighted to have provided volunteer support for the second year to Toys on the Table, introduced to use through our partnership with Leicestershire Cares. Toys on the Table is a charity operating in the Leicester and Leicestershire area. They provide new toys and gifts at the festive season for children, who might otherwise not receive anything.

The charity donated presents to over 3,500 children in 2022, and is run entirely by volunteers who collect, process, wrap and distribute the toys to the social services who refer the children. Seven of our employees spent 35 hours volunteering to help the operation.

Established in the early 1980′s, in recent years it has become a separate independent Registered Charity, run by a Board of Trustees, who represent community service organisations including Rotary International, Inner Wheel, the Society of Leicestershire & Rutland Golf Captains, together with workers and volunteers from the City and County Social Services.

Many years on, the need is still as high as it always has been for donated gifts and toys, and with the huge support from the public, and local businesses the Toys on the Table Appeal, has enabled thousands of children to receive gifts during the festive period throughout the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland areas.

An appeal goes out to the public, and, with the support of the local media, thousands of new toys and gifts are donated. Local companies get involved to provide large volumes of gifts, and the Charity organises other activities to raise funds to purchase gifts for the age groups where insufficient presents are donated.

Each year during November they launch the appeal in a public arena with special guests.

We were blown away by the work this wonderful charity does each year to spread some Christmas cheer to vulnerable children.

These volunteering hours support our social value commitment to the Elmbrook School project for Leicester City Council, procured through the Procure Partnerships Framework.

If you would also like to get involved, please visit their website: https://www.toysonthetable.org.uk/

Stepnell announces new company director

Category: Corporate

Adrian Barnes has been promoted to the role of director at complete construction partner, Stepnell, following four years as a regional director of the business.

Since joining Stepnell in 2019, Adrian has been the leader of the Midlands region. As a newly appointed director, Adrian will now continue to grow Stepnell in the Midlands. He will also bring to the board sound strategic thinking, creative ideas and good governance around its structure alongside a wider remit.

Adrian, said: “I would like to thank the board of directors for appointing me as a director of Stepnell, and to express how determined I am to take this next step to further push myself and the business to achieve even more success. “I have worked hard to oversee and deliver excellence on a number of successful construction schemes, grow and upskill our team, expand our expertise and look after our clients. This approach has led to us growing our presence and profitability in the Midlands region, and importantly contribute to the shared success of our business, which feeds into our ‘One Stepnell’ culture. I look forward to this next chapter of my career at Stepnell and what the future holds.”

Adrian has been responsible for a wide array of successful projects at Stepnell, with schemes ranging up to £25m in project value, as well as a multiple of sub £1m collaborative schemes for repeat clients. Project highlights include The Vulcan and current works in progress for Market Square on behalf of West Northamptonshire Council. Adrian also led the delivery of The Forge in Nuneaton, and various projects for Northampton General Hospital, Kettering Hospital and Warwick Hospital. High profile education projects include works for Worcester University, and the Rugby School.

Tom Wakeford, managing director of Stepnell, said “I am happy to announce that the board of directors has promoted Adrian Barnes to be a director of Stepnell. From the very beginning, Adrian has been a key part of the business’ leadership and success. Upon joining Stepnell in 2019, Adrian’s leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic ensured that Stepnell was one of the very few contractors who kept all sites operating throughout that challenging period. “I further commend Adrian for how he has built up our Midlands region. We have a strong Stepnell team in the Midlands with a good client base and well delivered projects, as well as a strong business pipeline of future work secured. As a director of the business, Adrian will be instrumental to the continuation of our success and further developing Stepnell’s teamship approach.”

Stepnell celebrates property award win

Category: Commercial

The Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (Nuclear AMRC) at Infinity Park in Derby, completed this year by construction partner Stepnell, has been awarded ‘construction project of the year’ at the 2023 East Midlands Property Dinner.

Stepnell shares the achievement alongside partners and stakeholders Infinity Park Derby, University of Derby, Nuclear AMRC, University of Sheffield, Derby City Council, Wilson Bowden, D2N2, Peveril Securities, Gleeds Management Services, BWB Consulting, Stephen George + Partners, and FPCR Environment and Design.

The facility provides a permanent base in Derby for the University of Sheffield’s Nuclear AMRC, part of the UK’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult. It is also the new home for the University of Derby’s Institute for Innovation in Sustainable Engineering (IISE). The project was commended by the judges for exemplifying the importance of strong public-private partnerships.

Tom Sewell, regional director at Stepnell, said: “We’re proud to be recognised by our peers in the region for bringing this world-class nuclear research facility to fruition. The centre will serve an important role as a hub in the East Midlands that will support the energy transition to more sustainable technologies. “Our depth of knowledge and collaborative approach enables us to deliver tremendous end-to-end value as a complete construction partner. We took advantage of all the specialist expertise from our local supply chain partners and across our team to achieve the desired outcomes on this complex build. “This included implementing a sustainable ground improvement solution and using the crafting expertise of our joinery team for the welcome area inside the facility.”

The complete construction partner provided local employability and careers support, T-level work experience and training opportunities on site. Car sharing was also encouraged, saving a total of 151,382 miles, equivalent to 52 tonnes of CO2. Furthermore, Stepnell prioritised a regional supply chain, achieving 67% local spend within 30 miles.

Nick Richardson, director at Infinity Park Derby LLP, said: “We are proud to be associated with the development of the Nuclear ARMC at Infinity Park in Derby. This has been a great team effort, showcasing the power of collaboration and strong public-private partnerships. We are currently working on the delivery of 3 further facilities on Infinity Park which just goes to demonstrate the strength of the location and what we have to offer at Infinity Park.”

The facility features 590m² of roof-mounted solar panels, generating around 83MWh of low-carbon energy per year – with estimated emissions savings of more than 19 tonnes of CO2 compared with the average grid supply. The building also includes sustainable materials throughout including cladding, insulation and glazing, with site landscaping to increase biodiversity and green cover.

These commitments contributed to Stepnell achieving an ‘excellent performance’ score of 43 out of 45 from the Considerate Constructors Scheme (CCS).

Councillor Nadine Peatfield, cabinet member for city centre, regeneration, culture and tourism at Derby City Council, said: “We’re delighted that the NAMRC Midlands has won this award, which is a vote of confidence for the city and our growing nuclear cluster at Infinity Park Derby. “Like all construction projects of the past few years, this project has had its challenges but we’re proud to have worked closely with partners to deliver a site that reaffirms Derby’s place as a leader for innovation, manufacturing and world-class research and development.”

Stepnell reappointed to Procure Partnerships Framework

Category: Frameworks

We are delighted to confirm that Stepnell has been successful in securing a place on the next generation of the Procure Partnerships Framework (PPF).

With forecasts of over £8bn of work being procured through this framework over the next four years, the new iteration is set to transform public sector procurement. In 2022/23 Stepnell delivered £17m of projects under the Framework with a forecast of in excess of £40m of projects being delivered during the current year 2023/24.

Our successful bid was only made possible through the hard work and efforts of Stepnell employees delivering live projects across the life of the previous framework. A customer satisfaction rate of over 98% recognises the quality of finished works that we have produced for clients, and our focus continues to be delivering a quality product, to programme with delighted clients.

Key successes across the first four years of the framework have included:

  • 100% record of compliance, performance and providing data on PPF projects
  • 100% delivery of projects to client quality aspiration to time/budget
  • 98% average client satisfaction 
  • 12 completed projects
  • 54.21% average social value add 
  • £12.27m social value add
  • 2 PPF Social Value Awards 2023 nominations
  • Average local spend: 67% @ 30-miles
  • 161,900 accident free hours PPF projects

The framework as a whole has national coverage, broken down into geographical Lots with regional governance that align well with our coverage across the Midlands, East Midlands, South West and the South. The lots we have secured places on are Construction works from £50k to £15m, Infrastructure Works from £1-15m and Decarbonisation and Retrofit from £50k to £15m across all our geographical regions.

Both the infrastructure and decarbonisation Lots are new to the national Procure Partnerships Framework, having a successful North West infrastructure framework already in place.

Infrastructure gives clients the opportunity to access our infrastructure expertise including public realm works and site wide infrastructure, such as current schemes at Market Square in Coalville Leicestershire, Marlborough Square in Northampton, and Stavely 21 in Chesterfield.

Our infrastructure expertise also includes some unique one-off projects such as an aerodynamic testing facility – Catesby Tunnel, which includes some of the flattest roads in Europe, if not the World.

The Decarbonisation Lot provides an excellent opportunity for clients to access the services of our embedded Energy & Renewables Company – Step Energy. We have a longstanding history of delivering energy and renewable focused projects, with a wealth of experience in the sector.

With a clear emphasis across the industry towards refurbishment of existing buildings coupled with energy reduction measures to reduce both embodied carbon and lifecycle emissions. Step Energy has been set up to provide clients an in-house solution to energy efficiency and carbon reduction.

We look forward to continuing providing clients with the best experience throughout their project lifecycles, with added value, targeted social value, sustainable solutions and decarbonisation at the core of all schemes, evidenced through excellent KPI conformance.

Robbie Blackhurst, Director and Founder of Procure Partnerships Framework commented: “We have expanded our portfolio to cater to the growing needs of the industry whilst ensuring clients have access to specialist contractors for their projects. Stepnell has an extensive portfolio of delivering successful projects, and we’re delighted to welcome them back onto the second iteration of the Procure Partnerships Framework. Their specialist expertise in infrastructure and decarbonisation is an invaluable asset to the framework, and we look forward to seeing what Stepnell achieves over the next four years.”

If you would like to know more about our offering through the Procure Partnerships Framework please contact Framework Director Lewis Archibald.