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In conversation with: Adrian Muir, project manager at Hayloft Point, London

28 September 2022

In conversation with Unite Students’ project manager Adrian Muir. 

Adrian spoke to us about his role and his latest completed project – our new flagship property, Hayloft Point, in Aldgate, London

Q: Adrian, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your role?

A: I’m a Project Manager here at Unite Students, responsible for driving the delivery of our PBSA schemes, covering major new developments, as well as conversions and refurbishments.

My role sees me work with a number of parties and stakeholders, both internal and external, to coordinate and push projects forward. I’m involved from day one – working with the team on proposals, funding, due diligence, design and planning – through to delivery, completion and beyond.

I’ve now been with the business over 10 years and have worked on almost 20 schemes in that time, varying in scale and profile.

Prior to joining Unite Students in 2011, I worked with a local authority, as well as in the Ministry of Defence. My experience across the industry now totals almost 40 years.

What do you think is most important in ensuring a project is delivered well?

For me, communication is critical.

As you can imagine, there is a huge amount of preparation and planning with each phase of development. To ensure things run smoothly, close collaboration and regular contact is key.

There will always be unexpected issues and the chance of successfully mitigating these is drastically improved when strong lines of communication are in place.

Hayloft Point is your new flagship property opening in Aldgate, London. Can you tell us a bit about this project?

This is a hugely exciting development for Unite Students. Situated in the heart of Aldgate – near the City and Shoreditch and close to bustling Spitalfields market – Hayloft Point is a building of considerable scale, at 24 storeys, with 920 beds.

The building boasts stunning city views, indoor and outdoor social spaces, modern study facilities, a free gym, cinema room, games and karaoke rooms.

The property offer students proximity to prestigious university campuses, high quality local amenities and excellent transport links. It really is a market-leading offer for students. The property reached practical completion ahead of the first cohort of students arriving in September.

Sounds like an exciting project – have there been any challenges along the way and how did you overcome them?

Our biggest challenge came with the discovery of some archaeological ruins early on in the development process. Hayloft Point is on the former site of a Shakespearean-era playhouse, some evidence of which remains!

This was a significant find and over a period of eight months we worked closely with the team from the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), as they excavated two thirds of the site and exhibited the findings.

The discovery generated high levels of public interest – we even had celebrity visits from Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan who were working on a film titled The Dig at the time – certainly a project first for me!

To protect and preserve the remains longer term, we also had to carry out a reasonably extensive re-design of the building, employing a number of innovative techniques, including building large columns to span across the area of archaeological importance to ensure we did not compromise the historical elements, or impact our planning permission. It all worked out in the end thankfully!

What an exciting find. Were there any other challenges once archaeological issues were resolved?

A second challenge came with a Transport for London (TfL) tunnel – situated on the southern boundary of the site. We had to be very careful not to impact that infrastructure as we built. Specialist techniques and close collaboration with TfL allowed us to construct safely but it certainly added a level of complexity.

Covid-19 and Brexit also, of course, created some challenges. We halted construction for approximately nine months in 2020, for example, to ensure the safety of workers on site.

There will always be unforeseen complications on a large-scale development project like this but through due diligence, adaptability and professionalism, we are almost always able to overcome them.

And what about sustainability – have you focused on this at Hayloft Point?

Unite Students is committed to net zero carbon construction and operations by 2030, so this is key across all of our projects.

The building incorporates air source heat pumps, solar panels across available roof space as well as features to enable future residents to live sustainably – such as cycle storage on every floor.

During the build, we have also focused on efficient waste management on site. Where possible, components are re-used, separated and recycled.

The building also incorporates D1, a community space, as well as commercial space – can you tell us more?

Yes – Hayloft Point incorporates other elements, alongside the PBSA offer.

D1 is a community space situated on the ground floor, above the playhouse remains. This will be occupied by a community-based organisation. D1 incorporates a performance space and equipment, paying homage to the site’s history.

There is also 14,000sq ft of flexible office space over four floors, accessed by a separate entrance and lift on the ground floor. This has been set up so it can used by multiple operators, or by one organisation.

The multi-use aspect has made Hayloft Point a really interesting project to deliver. Managing the different teams involved and keeping everything on track has been a challenge – but very rewarding as everything comes together.

 Any other interesting features to mention – what about anything on student experience?

One final interesting initiative at Hayloft Point comes in the form of our movement trackers – which we’ve installed in communal areas and amenities.

These sensors will collect anonymous data on the way various spaces across the building are used by students, allowing us to ascertain dwell time and the popularity of different features. This will help shape our future schemes, ensuring we provide exactly what our residents want.

This is a first for Unite Students and a great demonstration of our innovative, customer-centric approach.