Novel idea keeps bricklayers working

  AN ENTERPRISING boss has hit on a novel way to keep six bricklayers in work on a new £9m eco retirement development as temperatures plummet below zero again.

Jeremy Walford, managing director of Middleton Hall Retirement Village, in Middleton St George, near Darlington, has hired a vast marquee from Jeff Dobson Marquees so that builders – who would normally been laid off during the freezing weather conditions – can carry on working.

The local team of bricklayers are working on what is believed to be the first zero carbon retirement properties in the country.

Phase one of the scheme, which got underway in September, will see six of the planned 35 independent living homes built next to beautiful woodland with a wetland area and a large duck pond designed to attract wildlife.

Jeremy said: “Everyone laughed when I suggested what we needed was a marquee, but the logic is that marquee companies are not busy at this time of year and we want to keep building.  It’s certainly a bit different from the usual wedding use for a marquee.

“The bricklayers were also a bit surprised but of course they’re probably the only brick layers working on an outside site in this weather. Normally they would be unable to work until the weather improves as they can only lay bricks when the temperature is at least two degrees.  With a little background heating in the marquee, they can keep working and the bungalows will be ready for summer as planned. 

Graeme Bell, the project’s construction manager,  added: “It’s the first time I’ve been involved with building inside a marquee and I was a little sceptical at first but it’s working really well.” it is working really well.

The expansion of the village’s accommodation and facilities will create 45 new jobs and includes plans for an orangery with a cafe, bar and farm shop, which will sell produce grown at Middleton Hall and by local organic farms.

Builders have already finished work on the gatehouse – a two-bedroom prototype zero carbon home – which gives a taste of how the bungalows will look and feel. Each home will be fitted with wood burning stoves, triple glazed windows and thick insulation as well as solar thermal panels and electricity generated from PV (photovoltaic) panels.

According to National Home Energy Rating Software, energy costs for heating, hot water, lighting, cooking and use of appliances should be outweighed by income from the Feed-in-Tariff.

 “One of the worries for older people is paying for increasing energy bills on fixed incomes,” added Jeremy.

“The fantastic thing about the bungalows is that buyers know they won’t have costly energy bills to pay and could even make money from the Feed-in-Tariff income.”

Middleton Hall was founded in 1900 and work began 100 years later to transform it from a nursing home to a retirement village.

The village currently provides for independent living, assisted living, residential care, and nursing care through 49 apartments, 32 bedsitting rooms and 20 specialist rooms.

It has a wide range of facilities including its own swimming pool, spa and gym – with personal trainers on hand to help residents keep fit and healthy – as well as a library, restaurant and bowling green.

Marquee 1: From front to back: James Bateson, Chris Bateson, Colin Cole and Joe Starkey

Marquee 2: From left, Middleton Hall Retirement Village’s construction manager Graeme Bell and managing director Jeremy Walford on the site of the new development.

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