Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Is Everybody Ready?

The “handover” procedure for a £4million pound building project was very low key. We had invited the Design Team and our Board of Trustees but the contractor was in charge. The Site Manager and the Contracts Manager gave us a room by room tour of the Enterprise Centre and we also visited one of the Work Spaces.

Those who hadn’t been to the site recently were very impressed with the image the business park conveyed. The very high standard of work that had started the project had continued down to the last nail in the last piece of cladding to be fixed to the buildings.

We were then given a single piece of paper called a Certificate of Practical Completion and a huge bunch of keys – that’s it it was all ours. No drum role, no fly past, no champagne – after over 5 years of planning and building it was all a bit… hmm what do we do now time.

Of course we couldn’t actually move in and start work that would be too easy. Essensys who were providing our telephones and IT needed Virgin to provide a data cable and Virgin needed our council to grant them permission to lay a cable over the council’s land and the officer at the council couldn’t see why the council should grant permission……

That was on the Friday, over the weekend I avoided visiting the buildings since I knew if I started down that slippery slope I would be worrying about them all the time like a mother hen with chicks, I might as well knit them a jumper each.

So Monday morning I found an excuse to go to the business park. Turning the corner of the access road the first thing I saw was a very large fire engine. To say my heart sank would not be an exaggeration. I ran into the lobby and then up the stairs to find a dozen firefighters strolling down the corridor. I very nervously asked what the problem was – “oh no problem, we heard that there was a very large straw bale building on our patch and that is was open for business so we wanted to acquaint ourselves with it”. I counted to ten, took a deep breath and relaxed. I then led the firefighters on a very leisurely tour of the buildings and facilities and the usual FAQ’s relating to a straw bale construction.

Tenants have started moving in, we’ve cut the grass, sorted the keys and had our first false alarm on a smoke detector – it’s beginning to be a real business centre.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

The Café

The Café at Inspire. It’s going to be the central hub of the building, situated right in the entrance atrium and providing all the food and beverage requirements for residents and visitors alike. This meant that finding the right person to run it was always going to be a big job, but we’ve gone and found two!

To find who should run the Café, we ran a competition through the local press, inviting local people to submit entries about why they should be chosen. The successful applicant would then be offered a competitive salary and full business support for the first 12 months, before then being offered full ownership of the Café. 

After a tough selection process, which involved several stages and a day’s work experience in Leeds’ coffee and sandwich shop, Out Of The Woods, we picked Sharon Wilkinson & Shelley Madden, two midwives from Bradford and Leeds who entered together.   

We chose Sharon and Shelley because they had bags of passion, business acumen and an inspiring vision for the Café. 

They will run the Café alongside their current business Bumps and Babes, which specialises in providing health, fitness and educational advice and sessions for expectant parents. They’ll also be taking an office space at Inspire – to run Bumps and Babes from – and will combine the two businesses. This means that not only will the Café provide a vibrant hub within Inspire where food and drinks can be purchased, but it will also be used to hold some of their Bumps and Babes classes. 

We’re really excited about seeing Sharon and Shelley’s vision for the Café become a reality and can’t wait to enjoy a delicious coffee and sandwich there!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Mmmmm Honey

If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."

A pretty strong statement – often attributed to Einstein – but one that demonstrates the importance of the honey bee and its role in the world.

Whether the statement is entirely true is anyone’s guess, but it’s estimated that about a third of the world’s food is pollinated by bees, so what we can all be sure of is that their survival matters and that they do a lot more than just making honey.      
Tony Holdich & Bill Cadmore
 In some areas of China, bees have already become extinct and people are employed to pollinate plants and fruit trees with feather dusters, which is definitely not something we want to happen here in the UK.

So, because we think this issue is so important and because educating people about bees and what they do is essential to their survival, we’ve teamed up with the Bradford Beekeepers Association who will be setting up a base here at Inspire.

The Association will permanently house four hives at our business park in order to successfully breed bees and provide local people with training and educational sessions about the important insects.  For added interest we have a small camera which we will fit in the entrance to the hive and then relay live pictures of the bees going about their business, we might even see the waggle dance! Clients waiting in our reception/café area will be able to watch the bees on a large screen display with – bee cam!

So, as well as being a hub for business activity in Bradford, we’ll also be home to 50,000 honey bees. We think the honey bee enclosure will create a real buzz (sorry!) in Eccleshill and we’re looking forward to welcoming people to the training sessions that will be held here, so they can find out for themselves what amazing creatures bees really are!

Having an apiary on site wasn’t part of our original business plan but it’s such a perfect fit that I’m beginning to wonder what could we incorporate next?

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

It Started with a Bacon Butty

One of my first tasks when I started to work for the community association was to commission a website. My knowledge of all things IT was very limited at the time, for that matter it still is but I knew someone who could help.

I got in touch with @ikibau and we started to design the site. He suggested we add links to Twitter (@NewlandsCom is the account for the community association), Delicious, Vimeo and Flikr. Good idea I thought never having used any of them and plus he had to explain Delicious to me, twice. Being a very small charity with only a few staff all this fell under my purview. I must admit some of these links/tasks started to become fun/work?

Eighteen months ago that all started to change as we began to build our new business park. We engaged @Brand8PR to brand the new business and to initiate plans for a new website for the park. They introduced us to @Fuse8 who would make the website happen. Again there was the discussion about links to other useful sites. We linked to Flikr, YouTube, Blog and another Twitter account for the business park (@BradfordMe). Flikr was ok I was used to that. YouTube was alright we just migrated the Vimeo tapes across and added some new ones. Twitter (@BradfordMe) became a bit of a juggling act, how to keep the two active but separate. The real surprise though was the Blog. I had never done this sort of thing and was very unsure of how to proceed.

We held another meeting with @Fuse8 at our premises first thing on a Monday morning and being the genial host I provided bacon butties. One of the @Fuse8 team @IdleSi kept fiddling with his mobile. I didn’t know why but I assumed he was expecting an important message. However the next day I saw a mention about @BradfordMe from @IdleSi saying what a great meeting we had had and a compliment about the bacon butties which included an attached photograph! You could put photographs onto your tweets! I became more interested and started to follow @IdleSi on Twitter, boy was this guy busy. You could stalk him day or night from the comfort of your own home and know where he was, what he ate and when, his hobbies, his work life and his family. His site was really interesting, with LinkedIn, Twitter, Wordpress, Tumblr, Flikr, etc. I just found the whole thing fun; it seemed to make life more interesting. It also made me start to think about how we would provision internet/broadband at the new site. If other people were moving in this direction we would need a robust system to meet everyone’s needs.

The different social media have become very useful tools for us. When we were exploring funding for the business park it was easy to direct initial enquiries to the websites which gave a lot of background information. Once the build started the press, researchers and prospective tenants could review the 700+ still photographs on Flikr and the 30+ videos on YouTube and watch the building process from brownfield site to 30,000 sq ft of business park. Twitter has proved to be a great way of engaging the wider community. We now have four Twitter accounts each with a different area of interest.

The result of all this research and hands on experience of IT/social media was that we had two real options. We could let each new tenant source their own provider with all the attendant problems and delays – “yes we can provide you with a phone for your new business in three weeks blah blah blah”. It would also mean more cables and holes being drilled in our lovely new buildings. Not an easy task when the walls are three foot thick and filled with straw. So in the end we opted for a 100Mb/s fibre internet connection coming into our new site. Every user will be provided with a 20 Mb synchronous (20Mbit down, 20Mb up) internet connection delivered over our shared 100Mb fibre network with the possibility to upgrade to a shared 45Mb connection or to over 100Mb dedicated bandwidth.

This approach with the telecoms and networking systems within Inspire Bradford Business Park allows us to provision new users (telephone line, internet connection) in less than 5 minutes. All packages are provided on a pay-as-you-go basis meaning users can upgrade, downgrade, provision or decommission services instantly.
Funnily enough I have not met @IdleSi, whose bacon butty started all this, since that first meeting perhaps I should now suggest we meet for a beer and thank him or will a tweet do?

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Moody Colours, Textures and the Economy

Early on in the build project we started talking to the architect about interior design. Because of the type of project we were involved in it will come as no surprise that we continued the sustainable, environmentally friendly approach.

A lot of samples of paints, tiles, carpets etc had been collected over the previous months and we used them to create a mood board. A mood board is a great way to visualise how the final room will look and will help decide which colours complement or clash. Spending time now planning should save time later on and help to avoid decorating mistakes. Ideally the same broad colour palette should be used throughout the building.

Lay out your samples in the general order of the room - position the carpet at the bottom, soft furnishing samples in the middle, and curtain material near the top of the board. This will give you a much clearer idea than sticking samples randomly over the board.

Think also about what you're using the room for - it may sound obvious, but you won't be able to relax in a riot of clashing colours. We had offices, café, breakout areas, training rooms and washrooms to consider.

For the washrooms we started with cubicle doors which were made from recycled plastic bottles and were a multi colour riot of swirls which looked good against the white and blue vanity counters. The rest of the room was neutral ceramic tiles on the walls and a solid colour recycled rubber tile for the flooring with brushed steel door furniture. All of the colours and materials chosen were supposed to compliment and reflect the cubicle doors.

We then followed the same process with the first floor offices. There we started with the recycled carpet tiles which complimented the exposed wood and steel and matched the lime render on the exterior walls. Each wall facing a window was to be a block colour from a palette of three with the other two walls matching the exterior render. 

We then continued room by room which took awhile but soon we had interior designed 15,000 square feet of business space. With smug grins we moved on to looking at furniture and window blinds to fit the style that had been created.

“I’m sorry but you can’t have the cubicle doors you chose. The supplier has gone bust.” The architect was sympathetic but it was back to the mood board for us and a few changes.

2 days later

“Sorry but there isn’t enough stock left for the vanity units. They were from the same supplier as the cubicle doors.”

1 week later

“Sorry but the contractor advises against the eco paint you have chosen for the offices since it is mixed on site and they can’t guarantee a uniform colour and finish.” Back to the mood board.

1 month later

“Sorry but the carpet manufacturer has gone bust, I can get something similar but...” Mood board.

6 weeks later

“Sorry but the recycled rubber flooring can now only be imported from America at a substantial cost. The English stockist has gone bust.” Mood board.

The mood board was now a sorry mess where samples had been ripped off and new ones glued on. 

Perhaps it’s time for Plan B – everything magnolia.

Monday, 19 December 2011

X Marks the Spot

A big problem for the Newlands Community Association (NCA) has been its identity. Most local community organisations are named for a place or geographical area but the Newlands was artificially created to give an identity to 5 estates who were bidding for Government funding back in the old days of the Single Regeneration Budget (SRB).

One of the first steps was to redesign the NCA logo and to start slowly reintroducing the organisation to the local community. Part of that plan was the task to overhaul the organisations website. We added Flikr, Twitter, Vimeo and Delicious links to see if they added value to the site.

We own a number of properties in the area on behalf of the local community and as signage is replaced we are adding in the NCA logo and a strap line to strengthen our ties to these sites. One of the most important sites is where we are currently building the Inspire Bradford Business Park. The Park already has its own website with Flikr, Twitter, YouTube and a Blog link plus a connection with the NCA website.

At the beginning of the year we were contacted by Bradford Council’s Postal Numbering Officer who told us that the road that leads to the business park was incorrectly referred to as Park Road. The road opposite is Park Road but our road was originally the main driveway to the old manor house with a Lodge to the side and had never been officially named by the authority. As a result we were offered the opportunity to name the road, subject to local councillors agreeing. Our Board after a lot of proposals and consultation decided upon Newlands Way. While they were at it they also named the first two buildings; Newlands House One and (have you guessed yet?) Newlands House Two.

There are three councillors representing the area we are in and two of them immediately agreed to our suggestion while the third for reasons never actually explained objected. The Postal Numbering Officer explained that there would have to be a meeting but since two out of three agreed it would probably be OK. The local elections were not far away and I had heard that the councillor concerned was not standing so suggested we wait and then submit Newlands Way. Job done, we now not only had two buildings named after the Association but a road as well.

Entering this information into Google Places for Business really gives us a home on the map. Now if they only updated Google Earth……

Monday, 12 December 2011

Jean Genius

Because of the nature of our contract whenever there is going to be a change in the products, colours or costs that we have specified the contractor will meet with us to agree changes.

This recently happened with the insulation being used for the interior walls in the main building. We were intending to use sheep’s wool which has a high thermal rating as any sheep will tell you. Unfortunately the product wasn’t available at the time we needed it. The contractor had a few choices for us but to be honest only one really stood out. This was recycled denim sourced from industrial waste denim and old pairs of jeans supplied by Sheffield-based sustainable eco-product manufacturer Recovery Insulation. The product is called Inno-Therm and is a thermal and acoustic insulation manufactured using fibres from waste denim.
The insulation is an eco-friendly insulation as it doesn’t contain melamine, phenolic resins or other chemical irritants, meaning it is completely safe to handle and can be installed in a new build without the need for specialist safety equipment. The product meets the highest testing standards for fire and smoke ratings, fungi resistance and corrosiveness.

Inspire Bradford Business Park will incorporate 700 rolls of insulation, which equates to over 1,200 sq m, not quite the size of Wales an awful lot of jeans.

Another bonus for us is that the supplier is a social enterprise and for every sq metre of insulation sold, the company donates a percentage of the profits to the Schools and Homes Energy Education Project in Sheffield, which supports renewable energy, fuel and money saving activities in local and national schools and community projects.

In addition a recent report, published by UNEP, the United Nations Environment Programme warns of the cost to the environment of what were previously believed to be ozone friendly HFCs and urges investors and developers to consider the use of fibre, rather than foam insulation, in new construction projects.
The report highlights the positive impact of the Montreal Protocol on the reduction in Ozone Depleting Substances. However, it also confirms that the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), as a replacement for chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), are now proven to present a significant threat to the environment.

The report is a real wake-up call for any funder, developer or architect considering the use of blown foam insulation. Sustainable options do exist and will save much more than money in the long run.

Inspire Bradford Business Park endorses the concept of cradle-to-cradle construction, which requires that building materials used in the construction of a building also take into account its end-of-life impact by being ecologically compatible, economically acceptable and socially responsible in equal measure. A very large percentage of these buildings will be recyclable (i.e. steel) when they are demolished but more importantly those parts that may end up in landfill will not contribute to the pollution of the environment.