Social housing giant Circle has completed a transformation of a former gas works at Bell Green, Sydenham in south London, to create new homes for local people. O’Connell’s drywall carried out a £1.6 million contract to supply and install more than 30,000 sq m of drylining, partitioning, ceilings, Metsec steel frame infill and acrylic render.

The new Circle Housing Group scheme was funded by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) and they appointed Willmott Dixon as main contractor and bptw partnership as architect.

The residential phase included a mixture of one and two-bedroom flats. The 156 units are divided into 85 rented units and 71 units under the rent to buy scheme.

The main accommodation is divided into two concrete frame blocks based around a unique circular design which features an external brick-block façade with a rendered finish.

John O’Connell, managing director of O’Connell’s Drywall, said: “We were involved a year before the project started. We worked with the client to re-engineer the scheme to improve productivity and save cost. We reduced the drylining package by more than 20 per cent.

“Areas of the building designed to be built in masonry blocks with through coloured render could not be built as designed. So we worked with Willmott Dixon to find and recommend a lightweight alternative.”

O’Connells’s worked with engineers at Metsec and suggested a Metsec frame clad with Knauf Aquapanel. This could then be rendered using a Weber MT system. A 150mm Metsec external wall with insulation within the cavity and voids of studs were installed, boarded with two layers of wall board.

The render to the masonry was changed, with Wilmott Dixon’s approval, so that it could use the same finish on the lightweight walls. This approach gave a consistent coloured finish to the entire building. O’Connell’s was able to complete the works to the original programme.

Paul Roberts, Weber’s national applications manager, said: “The weber.rend OCR was applied in a single coat by way of a render pump providing consistent standards of quality with high levels of efficiency.”

The homes at Bell Green achieve level 3 of the Code for Sustainable Homes. Furthermore, the high levels of sustainability will allow the development to meet guidelines set out by the Mayor of London, including the ambitious aim to generate 20 per cent of energy via renewable technology. Externally the wall achieved 0.20W/m2K.

Internall wall made use of Gypwall for party walls and Gypwall Classic for internal partitions. The internal partitions met 40dB specification and the party walls 53dB. More than 14,000 sq m of British Gypsum Casoline MF ceilings were installed.

As with all contracts health and safety was a top priority. O’Connell’s carried out toolbox talks every week and subjects were about the work that was being carried out. Willmott Dixon scored O’Connell’s at 97 per cent and rated them as one of their top performing drywall subcontractors.

Luke Chandler from Circle said: “Over the course of an incredibly demanding programme O’Connell’s resourced the project very effectively and delivered an excellent product in very demanding circumstances.”


Project team:

Architect: bptw

Main contractor: Willmott Dixon

Specialist drywall & ceiling contractor: O’Connell’s Drywall Contractors

Wall system: British Gypsum