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Civil and Structural Engineer

Student Accommodation, VITA Cardiff

Civic Engineers provided Civil and Structural engineers for this £30m development to design high quality student accommodation in the heart of Cardiff city centre. In total creating 401 student rooms. The site is sensitive, in close proximity to the World Heritage protected Civic Centre and containing part of a listed terrace. A significant man-made water course, the Dock Feeder, runs below the site turning through 90 degrees within a 6m wide precast concrete culvert.

We retained the listed 11 Park Place and converting it from office to student studios; demolished the Bradley Court office building; and replaced this with a 19-storey tower plus single basement, with a public restaurant at street level. Significant new public realm forms a new square fronting onto Park Place.

Structurally the new tower is a reinforced concrete frame with post tensioned flat slabs, and a repetitive column arrangement for efficiency.  The column grid is dictated by the repetitive nature of the bedrooms provided on each floor. Stability is provided by the central core which includes three lifts, which drop down to one as the floors taper off; and a stair core.  Blade columns designed as ‘walls’ for fire reasons. At foundation level a number of the columns require transfer structures to straddle the buried 6m wide culvert.

Form finding for the basement was complex as it needed to fit between the culvert and a major highway, and be cognisant of the previous Bradley Court semi basement and potential ground obstructions. Several options were worked through with the contractor in terms of buildability, temporary works requirements and efficiency supporting the structure over.

For services we have provided soft spots as opposed to holes and then they come back and core them later, which means a smaller hole is formed and helps with fire protection and health and safety on site.  Generally, the bathroom pods are paired up, back-to-back, and have one soft spot between the bathrooms centrally between the columns.

The drainage is designed to reduce strain on the sewer network using SuDS hierarchy principles. All of the storm water drainage is directed into the Dock Feeder below, a canalised off-shoot of a natural watercourse.  The previous buildings on the site utilised a combined sewer to the West of the site.  The new design has provided a big gain for the Water Authority by taking all the storm water from the combined sewer and redirecting it into the Dock Feeder.

Vita provide high end student accommodation, targeting affluent foreign students.  The student bedrooms are all ensuite bathrooms, kitchenettes, and double beds, as well as excellent services.  There is a hub space on the ground floor with a 24 hour reception, gym, study areas, cinema room, private dining areas and event space.  Due to the extensive resident’s services provided at ground floor there was not sufficient room for plant  and bike storage so provision of a basement plant area was required.

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Student Accommodation, VITA Cardiff