Legendre - from Brittany to London’s West End

By Mike Hayes02 November 2022

When Groupe Legendre decided to expand into the UK in 2015, it started its operations with one project. Fast forward to 2022, Legendre UK is now working on six London sites, with Shorts Gardens possibly the most ambitious to date.

An impression of the facade of Shorts Gardens in London, illustrated the restricted access for the construction team. Image: Legendre UK

In the bustling Covent Garden area of the British capital, construction is underway on this highly complex £23m project, which will see the refurbishment and extension of two historic buildings. One is a former logistics building believed to have been used by the Ministry of Defence during World War II. It will be converted into offices and will deliver shell-and-core restaurant space. The other, a former warehouse, will be transformed to provide four new high-end homes.

But far from being a straightforward retrofit, Shorts Gardens is not a project for the faint-hearted.

Technical challenge

Both buildings are located on a very narrow one-way street, in a densely populated neighbourhood, making it difficult to carry out construction works while enabling continued access. As well as this, the buildings have multiple party walls, one of which is shared with a UKPN substation that provides power to London’s West End, meaning the team needs to keep vibration levels to a minimum and maintain access for UKPN equipment. There are also constraints beneath the site, with a tunnel for Transport for London’s new Elizabeth Line running only 14 metres under the existing buildings, placing restrictions on weight and movement above it.

A 3D view of the proposed Shorts Gardens development in London, UK. Image: Legendre UK

Thomas Vandecasteele, managing director for Legendre UK, says, “Technical projects are in Groupe Legendre’s DNA. In fact, our client selected us because of our ‘forensic’ approach to the brief.

“We started by undertaking a cloud survey early on in the process to ensure we had a thorough understanding of the buildings’ structures. Given the complexities of the project, we also decided to implement BIM Level 3. This allowed us full integration with all the project partners and stakeholders, which we think is absolutely crucial to a successful delivery, and especially with a retrofit.

“Given the site’s numerous party walls, we then had to develop and implement a top/down sequence of work to maintain the stability of the buildings on our site, as well as that of the adjacent properties. We also had to deal with the vibrations coming from the UKPN’s equipment by decoupling both buildings’ structures using acoustic pads and attenuation”.

Legendre is no stranger to challenging projects. The firm’s expertise is heavily based on its in-house engineering team, with the wider France-based steel structure and civil engineering subsidiaries helping to devise new and innovative solutions to challenges faced by teams based in all of Groupe Legendre’s markets (UK (including Jersey), Portugal, Switzerland, North Africa).

Healthy pipeline

With three projects under its belt in London, and another three under way, and with work in progress on a major development in Jersey, Legendre is rapidly growing its profile in the UK.

“Legendre UK is a British firm, but we are a very international team, with 14 nationalities, and we want to bring this global expertise to the UK market,” says Vandecasteele.

“We want to work on projects where we can make a difference, and with partners who share our collaborative and honest approach. We want to be seen not just as a contractor, but as a real partner who understands its clients’ challenges and help find solutions. Partnership could be anything from finding innovative technical solutions to investing our own funds in a project, or finding commercial solutions to tackle inflation and sharing risk.”

The company now has a healthy pipeline in London, as well as numerous projects in its home country, including the Athletes’ Village for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

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