U + I Group, CRL Preston Barracks

Brighton, England

Project Summary

MGAC provided project management and cost management services Brighton’s biggest ever regeneration project. An active barracks in WWII, this 2.2 hectare site was demolished and divided into plots, which were developed to provide 376 new homes, 1,338 student beds, various new academic buildings, and a 50,000 ft² innovation hub for start ups: the Plus X Innovation Hub (in development, CRL Preston Barracks).

The development is a testament to universal design, providing dynamic, accessible spaces for the local community to gather and innovate. Aesthetic appeal and function were prioritised over the efficient use of space, while social and environmental impact were core to the project’s objectives throughout development.

MGAC's Role

From the early feasibility stages through demolition, utilities installation, construction and post-construction works, MGAC has worked closely with U + I and the Project Manager. We got in on the bottom floor—perhaps even the basement—providing advice driven by passion.

As Quantity Surveyor, we interrogated contractor’s costs, attending monthly progress meetings. We took an active role in workshops with the architects and interior design team, filtering their ideas through our knowledge of the function and longevity of materials.

Challenges

As this was the first regeneration of its kind, Preston Barracks lacked benchmarks. It was also of the utmost importance to get it right. As a result, designs changed throughout the project. We had to be able to roll with the punches, adapting cost plans while keeping sight of the client’s original vision. All the while, the team needed to balance environmental impact with aspirational, youth-oriented design features.

The sub-divided lots also presented some logistical challenges. With works happening simultaneously across sites, it became a very busy area. Drivers on the access roads found themselves in an intricate dance.

Success Factors

The project benefited greatly from our relationship skills. When the client decided to buy all clay paving in advance of construction to guarantee consistency across the development, the landscaping contractor was willing to help us out with storage.

Our positive, collaborative, and solution-seeking attitude was our greatest asset; it meant we could truly challenge costs with the contractor in deep detail while maintaining a great bond. Clear communication meant the client could make intentional decisions about their priorities, every step of the way.