UK aeromedical charity Essex & Herts Air Ambulance (EHAAT) has received the keys to its new purpose-built airbase at North Weald Airfield following its completion by Barnes Construction. Work on the facility began in February 2020 after planning permission was granted by Epping Forest District Council. Project managed by quantity surveyors Castons, and designed by architects Hurley Porte and Duell and structural engineer specialists Superstructures, the new airbase was built by Barnes and has been delivered on time despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a socially distanced handover, EHAAT CEO Jane Gurney and Cliff Gale, EHAAT's operations director, took possession of the building from Mark Hart, joint divisional MD of Barnes Construction. This was carried out via a video link in order to comply with the current lockdown restrictions on non-essential travel.
Jane Gurney says: “The handing over of this building marks yet another milestone in what is a very important project for the charity. The opportunity to design and build our own airbase has allowed us to include elements such as dedicated areas for training, which will benefit not only our crews but also the local pre-hospital care community, along with an interactive visitor centre for our supporters who we look forward to welcoming to this incredible new building when such visits become possible again. On behalf of the trustees and the executive team I would like to thank Barnes Construction and the associated partners and suppliers for all their hard work and support in seeing this project through to completion in such a professional manner, especially with the added pressures the pandemic presented.
“I would also like to thank our amazing fundraisers and donors for helping us secure the future operation of the charity at North Weald for many years to come by supporting us and making this possible.”
Mark Hart adds: “We are proud to have played a key part in the construction of this new airbase, which is a true community-based project that will help everyone. The project has been a collaborative team effort, and I'm very grateful to Castons, Superstructures and Hurley Porte and Duell in particular for helping us to get the scheme delivered on time and under the most extreme and challenging circumstances due to COVID-19.”
In addition to housing an AgustaWestland AW169, one of EHAAT's two helicopters, and two of its rapid response vehicles, the new building has areas for training, mentoring, patient liaison and fundraising. There is also space for cross training with other emergency services, which will benefit both EHAAT and the local pre-hospital care community. Part of the new airbase will be a dedicated interactive visitor centre, which will allow the charity to welcome and engage with the local community.
The new building, which includes a hangar that is capable of housing two helicopters when necessary (for example, to permit aircraft maintenance) has underground heating beneath the helipad to keep it free of snow and ice during the winter months.
The building has been designed with green issues at the fore. It includes charging points for electric cars and photovoltaic panels on the roof that will generate electricity. Any excess will be supplied to the National Grid. There is bicycle parking for staff who wish to cycle to work, and as much waste as possible will be recycled. The building has been well insulated in order to retain heat and reduce noise pollution, and it will make as much use as possible of natural light in order to save on electricity.
Work has now begun on the internal fit out phase, and it is scheduled to become operational by June of this year.