Four weeks down, fifteen to go! Time has continued to speed up while we have been here. We are now in the rhythm of going to class Monday and Wednesday and site visits Tuesday and Thursday. This week has stood out to me as one of the more exciting and eventful weeks, so I am glad I get to share what all we learned and had the incredible opportunity to visit.
Monday, we started the day with Professor Hertz’s British Life and Culture class. We discussed the British political system and how it differs from the U.S. Our class then took the tube to the Victoria and Albert museum, the world’s largest museum of art and design. It is an educational hub that houses five museums and five schools. Hertz took us to the exhibition that explored Europe’s material culture from 1500-1900’s. Hertz explained that most of the items we would see belonged to the wealthiest people at that time. Some of these items included ceramics, wood carvings, and tapestries that were absolutely stunning. We learned that tapestry is the most prestigious art form because of the time and patience it takes to complete one. We also saw the flamboyant fashion of the men, such as Albert, and women at the time. We ended the tour looking at sculptures of influential people, such as the famous composer Handel, and the paintings of artists’ such as Gainsborough. The tour was fascinating and several students are planning on returning later in the semester to check out the other exhibits offered.
Tuesday, our group met outside Anglo Educational Services (where we have class) to take minibuses to Sir Robert McAlpine’s construction firm. Beth, the assistant site manager, gave a PowerPoint presentation that explained their company and the project, Quadrant Four, we visited right after. Beth said their company prides itself in doing work the right and ethical way. She said that they have lost projects because of this due to the fact that “some clients don’t give a toss.” Beth then went on to explain Quadrant Four. She said it is part of the Crowne Estate’s redevelopment of Regent Street. This means that the client or owner is the Queen of England, which we all thought was really cool. The project revolves around the refurbishment of a 1934 building that was once an Art Deco hotel but will now be 48 high-end apartments. The work to make this transformation happen involves adding two levels with a terrace (which will be 7 duplexes), remodeling some floors, and renovating the existing facades. Beth said the goal is to retain as much stone as they can and any new part is faience. Faience is a new term we learned. It is a 3D cast that allows you to mold a shape however you want. They are using it to get as close to the original stones as they can. The process involves the stone being kilned twice, which involves a lot of twisting and contorting. This means the product will not be a squeaky clean one because it is being heated, cooled, and expanded. Beth said the tolerances for faience are pretty high because they realize the building is not perfect originally so it does not have to be perfect now. Abi, the environmental and sustainability analyst, picked up the presentation and discussed the sustainability organogram (organizational chart) used for the project. She explained how the company is focused on gaining a 70% or above in sustainability. One way they are achieving this is by employing 40% of its people locally (20 miles from the project). Abi stated the biggest risks and difficulties of the project include watching out for asbestos, since it is a 1934 building, and debris during some demolition. A significant factor they have had to consider is the fact that there is a live high-end gym (where Prince Harry works out) on the first two levels of the building that they cannot disrupt. After the presentation, our group went to the site to discuss the scaffolding taking place. Beth discussed the “scaffolding strike” by referencing the putting up and taking down of the scaffolding. It was a good thing someone asked for clarification because we took it literally as a labor strike about scaffolding. We then had the chance to weave our way through the scaffolding, which was fun and a little tricky because some spaces were really tight.
Our group then loaded back up in the minibuses and headed towards Wimbledon, another project of Sir Robert McAlpine. We were honored to visit this “top secret” project where McAlpine is building a fixed and retractable roof above Court No. 1, which is only used for Wimbledon. McAlpine is also adding two more tiers to the court and are replacing Court 19 with a two-level open plaza. Additionally, they are enlarging the seats in the bowl, which will reduce the seating capacity by 360. To do all of this, McAlpine has to remove the existing roof and install eight steel roof trusses to support the new roof. This new roof will be completed by April 2019. In the meantime, they have to continue putting up the cranes and taking them down every summer so as not to interfere with Wimbledon. The unfinished parts of the roof will be painted green too so they are not a distraction for the players. We learned that nothing is permanent on the site except for the grass and main stadium. No one is allowed on the grass, and electric fences have been put up to keep the foxes out. We enjoyed learning about and visiting this site. We all took lots of pictures, but were told we could not post them anywhere until the project is completed due to confidentiality considerations.
Wednesday, we had our Construction Law class from 1-5pm. We discussed various topics, including how Lloyd’s method of insurance is different from American insurance companies such as State Farm. This was helpful to discuss since it gave us some background information before we headed to Lloyd’s the next day. We also did an activity where we looked for law vocabulary and Who, What, When, Where, Why and How sentences in the daily newspaper.
Thursday, our group met at CBRE, a company that provides real estate services such as consulting and debt management. Matt Wilderspin gave a PowerPoint presentation that gave an overview of what CBRE does and how it started. He told us that CBRE was established in 1773 and focuses on the investor and occupier. He said that research is key because you have to be able to look at the market and tell the client where to invest in real estate. Interestingly, some of their big clients include Time Warner, Warner Bros., Google, and Facebook. Matt then discussed that 2017 looked like it would be a year of refurbishing due to finances. He stated that buildings are becoming more and more mixed scheme, meaning it contains some residential aspect to it. This is due to the fact that local governments mandate this and because London’s population is continuously growing as more and more people are retiring in the cities to be close to theatres, etc. He went on to talk about the UK market trends and how they have recently needed more project managers to do all of these projects. He said that CBRE has hired secretaries who possess great management and people skills to fill these vacancies. Matt also discussed terms such as procurement (single and double state) and joint ventures. He explained how joint ventures are similar but also a little different to Public Private Partnerships. It was neat to see terms we had learned in class applied out in the real world.
At 2:00pm, our group met at Lloyd’s of London. We were taken to a room to hear a presentation on the history of Lloyd’s and to understand how their business is conducted. Lloyd’s is described as being “the world’s insurance company” but is in fact not an insurance company at all – it just provides a building where insurance companies do business. It is known for having the best reputation in the world in regards to assessing risk and having the money to pay up when claims come in. It is important to understand that Lloyd’s is just a building; it insures nothing and takes on zero risk. It all started in 1688 with Edward Lloyd who had a coffee shop next to the Tower of London. He would give out lots of information to these wealthy voyagers before they set sail on their ships. Business owners therefore came to this coffee shop to persuade these wealthy voyagers to protect themselves before setting sail. This was a new concept for people to give a total stranger money to pay up if their ship sank. Lloyd would charge these underwriters (people who would sign their names under the sum they are insuring) to do business at his place of business. This is what still takes place at the Lloyd’s of London today. The brokers come in, on behalf of the client, to negotiate with the underwriters. It is convenient for them since all of the underwriters are in the same location, but they have to pay for this luxury. Brokers have a “conflict of interest” because they are trying to get the cheapest premium for their client to be happy but also want a bigger percentage so their boss will be happy. While Lloyd’s focuses on insurance, they also focus on reinsurance. This is a new term for us, and it is when insurance companies insure themselves above what they say they can pay up. This is 37% of what Lloyd’s does. The presentation concluded with the speaker saying that anything can be insured there except financial guarantees, war, and life insurance. Interestingly, Lloyd’s has insured some remarkable aspects of history, such as Hurricane Katrina and the London Olympics. After the presentation, we were taken on a tour around the building.
Friday, our group headed to the Tower of London. Most of us, including myself, went on a tour Wednesday instead in order to head to Dublin, Ireland for the weekend. The tour on Wednesday was cut a little short due to the rainy weather. However, we were able to go in to the stunning Royal Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula and the Crown Jewels. Some of us are planning to go back to get the full in-depth tour.
Until next week! Cheers.
Emily Christians ‘17