O’Keefe Community News Summer 2018

5th June 2018

Welcome to the third edition of O’Keefe
Community News

Hello everyone. We’re now halfway through the year and I’m really pleased to tell you that we’re on track to reaching our 2018 end of year targets and that as always is down to you. Thank you for all your hard work and please keep it up.   

As you well know, safety is key to everything we do in this business. It’s our No 1 priority and our No 1 value. This month sees the launch of our new safety campaign and I cannot stress enough how changing our habits and making safety part of our everyday lives will make a massive difference, whether we’re out on site or in the office – it effects every one of us and we need to get it right. We are also launching the O’Keefe Vision this month too…

We hope you enjoy reading through this edition. As always, we aim to include a good mix of stories and features from across the business. If there’s anything in this edition of Community News that you would like to feedback on, please email Roger McKerlie, head of marketing (roger.mckerlie@okeefe.co.uk) and feel free to suggest topics you would like to see in the next bulletin.

Stay safe, Patrick


Planning for safety – The O’Keefe Group introduce new internal safety site campaign

As part of our ongoing drive to create a hazard-free environment on all our sites, we’re stepping up our focus on safety and launching a new internal campaign to reduce the risk of accidental contact between any of our staff and plant equipment. The new poster safety campaign focusses on how every member of the O’Keefe team can be an ambassador for safety and help influence and educate. To find out more, Community News caught up with the O’Keefe Group’s health and safety leader Michelle Rice.


O’Keefe Vision is officially launched

Whilst the O’Keefe Vision brochure has been on the website for a while now, we are pleased to announce that the programme officially launches in June. The purpose of the Vision is to give the business a robust framework on which we hang our values and objectives.

As we move forward we will measure and benchmark the business against the Vision, formally on a six-monthly basis and informally on a quarterly basis. Amongst other indicators of performance this process will form part of our commitment to retaining our ISO accreditations but above all it is further evidence that the O’Keefe Group is a substantial and sustainable business which is always focused on improvement.


Spotlight on Jamie McWatt – the O’Keefe Group’s chief estimator talks about life on the job and his trickiest tender to date

Jamie McWatt, the O’Keefe Group’s chief estimator, has worked in the business since 2001 and is hugely optimistic about future processes and technology associated with estimating and tendering here at the O’Keefe Group. In his own words he describes life on the job and how the introduction of new BIM-related technology is positively changing the way things are being done.  

What are the biggest factors when it comes to pricing up a job?
“There are a whole range of variables involved when it comes to costing a job. We account for anything from the type of project, to how difficult it is, to the length of the job, what the finished product will look like and whether or not we are the principal contractor or the sub-contractor. Location too is also a huge factor effecting price. If we’re costing up a city centre-based job then it can often contain several hidden issues which need accounting for whereas a brownfield site can contain a number of different, hidden costs. The type of client can also impact the end price and of course, client’s expectations or specifications as to how they want the finished job to look.”

How do you manage tenders? 
“We look to find the best opportunities through repeat business and work together with key teams across the business to develop these opportunities and our clients’ work pipeline. We tend to work really closely with the BIM and the preconstruction teams. Both are hugely important to us in scoping out and assessing the main requirements for each job and providing the key tools for pricing the job.”

Tell us about the software that you use now?
“There are lots of new pieces of pricing software on the market being used by main and sub-contractors. New government restrictions stipulate that new technologies are applied to all projects funded by public capital. At the O’Keefe Group, we use a piece of software called Vico Office which is closely aligned to Excel and ticks all the boxes when it comes to delivering a homogenous system that extends between pre and post-contract. Our team in Macedonia, headed up locally by Aleks Stavrevski, produce accurate 3D models from the 2D information passed on via the tender process. The commercial information and estimating data derived from Vico 3D modelling is integral to all sectors of the business in helping to set budgets and ascertaining the resources needed. If there is any disparity between what is allowed and what is needed, then Vico alerts the commercial and construction teams early on in the process and gives them time to consider other options which helps stop any potential issues from arising.”

What’s the trickiest job you’ve tendered for to date?
“One of the trickiest projects that we have tendered to-date is a project named 5-7 St Helen’s Place, London EC3. We were contracted by Brookfield Multiplex to construct a three-storey basement, plus a seven-storey frame, which involved a mixture of RC and structural steel frame.

“The existing building and basement had to be demolished, except for the front façade, which was built from traditional Portland stone. This had to be retained with a complex retention system, which physically suspended the entire façade in mid-air. The support was provided by a number of grillages and plunge columns. Hydraulic jacks were incorporated to control any movement of the façade during the construction works.

“The site was located just off Bishopsgate with limited access through a listed archway and a single-access private road. This made the logistical challenges for the project extremely difficult and required a high level of planning by our construction team. An opening was created within the existing façade to facilitate the movement of plant onto the site from St Helen’s Place. However, large plant had to be lifted over the façade via cranes.

“To enable the large rotary bearing and secant piles to be installed, many with a diameter exceeding 1 metre, the existing basement and vaults had to be backfilled with foam concrete, which then had to be broken out afterwards for the new basement construction. Some of the piles were also less than 1 metre from the existing 11th Century St Helen’s Church, which required special care and attention to avoid potential damage that could have been caused through vibration and movement. Extremely high tolerance criteria were placed on the contract, whereby the existing adjacent structures were not allowed to move more than 5mm. This required special construction techniques in relation to piling, obstruction removal and the necessity for a multi-level temporary works installation, controlled by hydraulics.

“Other complexities of the job included working below the existing water table, constructing core walls tight to the adjacent buildings, protecting the existing Victorian water main beneath St Helen’s Place and the installation of tie-rods to secure the existing buildings at each floor in co-ordination with the demolition of St Helen’s Place.

“Given the enormous challenges that the team faced during the two years on site, the project was delivered on time, on budget, and all the while we maintained the architectural heritage of St Helen’s Place and the surrounding buildings.”



The O’Keefe Group sign-off on a second successful contract at Wembley Eastlands

The O’Keefe Group were appointed back in June 2017 by developer Quintain to deliver a groundworks contract for Eastlands, the next phase of a residential development adjacent to Wembley Stadium and part of the 85-acre development known as Wembley Park, which once completed will include 8.8 million square feet of mixed-use development and be home to 20,000 people. This was the second contract awarded to us by Quintain, following the successful completion of a similar enabling works contract for phases 1 and 2 of South Westlands, also part of the Wembley Park development.

The project

The Eastlands project involved the construction of a single-storey basement (spanning the entire site – an area of 15,000 square metres) and piled foundations for four residential towers up to 18 storeys high.

What would usually be a straightforward project was in fact quite challenging. This was due to several factors including a demanding programme of works which also had to fit around major events taking place at the stadium, typically one a week. The main contractor Wates also required part of the site to be handed over in just six months. This was an ambitious timescale to meet as a project of this size would usually take up to 12 months.

Work started on site with the installation of sheet piled retaining walls for the basement and the first phase of continuous flight auger (CFA) piles to support the raft foundations. In total, we installed 520 metres of sheet piled wall to a depth of 12 metres using silent piling methods due to the close proximity of Wembley Stadium, to act as cantilever for the 3.5 metre deep basement excavation. There were two exceptions close to the stadium where the sheet piles were tied back to a second sheet piled wall section.

Lee Horsley, managing director at O’Keefe, said: “The cantilever approach was a key part of meeting the programme as it meant the basement walls would be freestanding and eliminate the need for raked shoring. This meant it was faster to excavate and provided an open area for Wates at the handover stage. Once the piling was finished there was a 12-week programme that included the excavation of 30,000 square metres of spoil from the basement, plus welding of the sheet piles to provide waterproofing. The site was handed over to Wates on a revised schedule following the client’s request to include a swimming pool.”



Kew Gardens’ Temperate House restored

Temperate House, the world’s largest surviving greenhouse, has recently reopened after a five-year ambitious restoration and modernisation programme. The Grade 1 listed structure was stripped back to bare metal and modernised. It is 191 metres long and up to 18 metres tall. The overall aim of the £41 million restoration was to preserve and strengthen the structure which was in danger of collapsing. The O’Keefe Group spent over three years working on site.

Project manager Raj Thiyakarajah said: “This proved to be an incredibly lengthy and complex job as we couldn’t use any big plant machinery. All the steel was moved by hand and the concrete by three-tonne dumper. The results were worth it though and all the support systems integral to the building’s workings are now secure and much improved. I was proud of our team and proud of what we achieved.”


A new community sports space comes to life in Greenwich, thanks to the O’Keefe Group

For more time than anyone would care to imagine a five-acre site in the heart of the Royal Borough of Greenwich has lain dormant and unused. This prime real estate at Hervey Road SE8 has evaded the hands of the property developers and has instead been given over by Greenwich Council to the new Blackheath Rugby Club Trust to build and manage a community sports facility. This has been made possible by support from the O’Keefe Group’s Community Foundations programme.

Work is now underway at Hervey Road following the recent completion of the groundworks. The modular sections of the new club house and changing rooms were brought in and assembled on site. The fit-out and completion of the club house and further works on the sports fields is due to get underway soon.

Roger McKerlie, head of marketing, said: “Our Community Foundations programme is really building momentum and we are delighted to be adding the Hervey Road project to the work that we already do with 21 Together and K Sports in Kent. Even though we are moving our headquarters out of Greenwich, we always want to be connected to the borough and this is the perfect way for us to leave a legacy.”



The O’Keefe Group’s Community Foundations – a closer look at 21 Together

21 Together is a registered Kent-based charity set up by four mums of children with Down’s syndrome. Those mums, who are now the trustees of the charity, realised there was a huge demand for local specialist training for parents and professionals and communal therapy sessions for the children so set about creating a new, locally-based charity.

The parents, who make up the charity’s trustee body, decided they would form fortnightly communication groups for the children to improve their speech and social skills, and provide an advice service for parents and carers.

These communication sessions help the children to succeed socially and to access mainstream schools along with their siblings and peers. The cash the O’Keefe Group raises through Community Foundations is helping to fund these fortnightly groups and will make a massive difference to the children’s communication skills and social confidence.

We were recently invited to meet some of the children taking part in the workshops. They were fantastic, full of energy and just a delight. Two of the children we met were larger than life and enjoying being at the workshops and getting involved with the activities.

Their names are Bethan and Lathan. 

Bethan is a bright, bubbly nine-year-old who lives with her mum, dad and two brothers. She loves babies and all things pink. Bethan though, has a severe speech delay and needs help to vocalise. She understands significantly more than she can communicate. She has some amazing friends both at home and in her mainstream school and she loves to socialise with them and be part of the gang!

Lathan, also nine, is part of a big family, with three siblings (Chantelle, 18, Phillip, 16, and his twin sister Cailyn), his pet dog Toby and a pet dragon called Sydney! Lathan has a huge personality and wants to be a part of everything life has to offer him. He has many different passions including football, swimming, performing arts and school. He goes to a mainstream junior school and has many friends who have learnt to sign to make him part of the group.

Bethan and Lathan are friends too and are trying to work out how to communicate with each other which as pre-teens can often be complicated. This is made harder by the communication difficulties they both face. However, through the workshops funded by our Community Foundations programme, these children are having fun and learning new social skills fast.

Enterprise Content Management (ECM) update

Following the successful relaunch of our new ECM at the beginning of the second quarter, most of our operational staff (from senior engineers to regional directors) have undergone training in the new systems and procedures, including risk assessment and CDM (Construction Design and Management).

Follow-up training sessions have been scheduled for the next few months and will focus on reviewing the RAMS (Risk Assessments and Method Statements) produced by the teams and on updates on the lifting operations procedure and standards.

Process workshops have also been scheduled to engage with our people in the changes required to our processes and procedures, which include tendering and estimating, quality and engineering, supply chain management, project reporting and risk review, and roles and responsibilities.

Jo Strahan, quality and systems manager, said: “The sessions have been attended by a wide variety of staff from different regions and job roles and so far, the feedback I’ve had has been really positive.

“The next ECM and BMS (Business Management System) information release is set for next month, so watch this space. Our aim is to achieve a fully-integrated management system that follows each project life cycle, from client selection and strategy to handover and close. Everyone will get the opportunity to have the training. Details will be confirmed shortly.”

Bjorn Murphy, project manager for the O’Keefe Group, said, “The workshop meetings that I have attended so far have been quite refreshing to see the structure of the company accelerating in the right direction. I think that once this new system and all the procedures are up and running we will have an amazing package to offer our new and existing clients.”

Roy Fitch, logistics manager for the O’Keefe Group, said, “It was great to have an input and have a real insight into the project. I found the enthusiasm very infectious and feel very positive going forward about the business and the launch of the O’Keefe vision.”


Cricketts Farm update

Patrick O’Keefe, CEO of the O’Keefe Group, updates us on the latest news from Cricketts Farm, the soon-to-be new HQ for the group.   

“The first phase of our new headquarters is almost complete when our state-of-the-art plant depot and workshop opens in late June 2018 and we move from our Dunbrik facility and combine our office plant and buying teams with our logistical support teams. We also recently invested more than £1 million in new plant and machinery and now have a fleet of more than 50 excavators, so we’re well placed for the future.  Although we bought Cricketts Farm four years ago with the intention of eventually making it our headquarters site, it seems the need for this was earlier than expected due to how the business has grown, particularly over the past few years. It’s an exciting chapter for us and we’re looking forward to the future.”


Looking out for the future – Lewis Golding talks about his latest role after recently completing his management apprenticeship with the O’Keefe Group

Supporting and encouraging young people into the industry is vital for our future success and apprenticeships including practical on the job skills, learning and invaluable experience, are becoming ever more important to us. The O’Keefe Group are a strong supporter of these schemes and have many past apprentices working within our business in senior roles.

Our latest management apprentice to qualify, Lewis Golding, has been with the business for over a year and is now a fully-fledged member of the team. Lewis said: “The role that I’ve been offered and have accepted is progressive and just right for where I want to be in my career. I feel The O’Keefe Group has provided me with the right training and further education to suit my role within the company.”


Recent contract awards and completions

The O’Keefe Group contract wins: 

  • Project: Battalion Court. Client: Bellway Homes Limited
  • Scope: Substructure, RC Frame, drainage and services
  • Programme: 32 weeks commencing 29/05/18
  • Project: Pink car park. Client: Quintain
  • Scope: Groundworks, piling
  • Programme: 34 weeks commencing 01/04/2018

The O’Keefe Group contract completions:

  • Project: Wembley E01/E02. Client: Quintain
  • Project: 1 Crown Place. Client: CBRE
  • Project: Eltham Cinema. Client: Willmott Dixon

Awards Won in 2018: We’re proud to be awarding our people for their sustainable approach to Quality and Safety.

  • David Ellerby recently won the Quality award for his continued and ongoing commitment in this area.
  • Mark Butler has been awarded the Safety award for his ongoing commitment to safety.


The O’Keefe Group delivers 125 new homes at Hope Wharf, Greenwich

The O’Keefe Group has recently completed a contract for Fairview Homes Limited providing 125 new homes. In addition, the development also provides over 500 square metres of commercial space ranging from four to 14 storeys and a standalone commercial unit plus secure cycle parking and other associated developments. Located just off Greenwich High Road, the project took 32 weeks. Project manager Qendrim Hoxha said: “We’ve all worked really hard to deliver on this programme and it’s paid off. It’s been great to help build this development and bring new amenities and commercial and residential accommodation to the area.”

James Bourke, divisional director for London, said: “This is a project we were really pleased to be involved with and demonstrates continued investment by Fairview Homes Limited into high-quality locations across the South-East. We’ve enjoyed working with Fairview and delivering on such a successful project.”