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Brighton shipping containers installation - week 1

At QED we’ve been blown away by all the interest we’ve had in our development for Brighton Housing Trust to provide temporary accommodation. So I thought i’d run some diary posts detailing whats been going on each week.

[Day One]
Arrive on site before dawn, to see one container already reversed into site. I’m stood outside with Chris (my father and the other Director of QED Estates Ltd), Andy Winter and Alex from Viva Brighton enduring the wait for the first lift while the crane guys get set up. I’m nervous but take comfort from the fact that our contractors, have done this before. Talking to Alex helps to occupy my mind. 7.45 am and the first lift is under way. Interest in the project continues with Andy and Chris fielding questions from local news mid morning. I’m off to Tilbury docks to discuss the delivery schedule for the rest of the week and ensure all runs smoothly. BBC Radio Sussex call on the way back and invite Andy and I on their drive time show. More than happy to attend. Afternoon runs fine with all 6 containers in place. Day ends with my first live media appearance, which I managed to ramble my way through – i’m sure it gets easier – Andy does great and we are on air for about 12 minutes at drive time.

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[Day Two]
Up at 5.30 am and off to Robertsbridge, East Sussex today where 24 of the containers are having Juliette balconies fitted offsite. Each pit stop takes about 20 – 25 minutes. Timing arrivals into Brighton is pretty crucial and I’m constantly on the phone with Lee at our haulage firm and the contractor on site. The engineers do a fantastic job – their pre-made jig makes the job look very easy!

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Leave Robertsbridge late morning happy, call into site on the way back to watch two units being craned in. We are not causing too much traffic chaos as long as the drivers don’t have too many attempts backing in! Watching from across the road as the units go in – recall talking with a young lady walking her child who lives on the other side of Preston Park, she was interested to see for herself what it was all about and was really supportive of the project, which is pleasing to hear. Mid afternoon and back to the reality of running your own business I’m back in the office with invoices to process and payroll to do………… Check in with the contractors onsite before I knock off. All 8 containers are in place as planned. So far so good.

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[Day Three]
On the phone first thing with the haulage firm, there have been early morning traffic problems so the first units are running late. Its going to be a long day. Arrive on site show Angie and Megan – who work in our office – around the site. Meet Andy Winter at 11 am to finalise choice of carpet, he is meant to be meeting a photographer from Getty Images but he doesn’t show. We’ve access to one of the ground floor units so Dad and I start cleaning one of the units up. We’ve got the BBC One Show coming down to film on Friday with some of the first residents set to have a first looks so while it wont be anywhere near finished it will at least be clean. Gives us the opportunity to run through and finalise what we are doing internally. At 3pm I’m off to BHT’s offices on London Road to run through things with Steve who will be managing the site and is responsible for selecting the first residents. He provides detailed spreadsheet of potential residents, so far there have been 50 applications. He tells me so far he has 25 selected. Pretty even split of male and female age range is 19 to 66. Takes a while for it all to sink in. After that I’m back to site to oversee the arrival of the last units.

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Earlier delays mean we are pushing to get them in before the rush hour kicks in. I help manage the passing pedestrian traffic as the units arrive and are in pace before 5. At 6 pm I’m down to Brighton marina to attend a Brighton and Hove Estates Agents meeting, they’ve asked me to come and talk about the project and to see if there are any opportunities for them to help. I present the idea to fund some of on going food growing initiatives we are putting in place. I leave feeling positive. Final act is a Brighton Energy Co-Op board meeting. We are launching our second share offer on Friday night and need to finalise the details.

[Day Four]
Up early and heading back to Robertsbridge, having couch surfed at a mates in Brighton. Today, as well as running the balcony pitstop, we are welding cleats to some of the units to support the roof and we’ve got Paul ‘Aroe” Barlow of the MSK graffiti crew coming to paint some of the units. Check in with the haulage firm en-route and we are on schedule. Paul is painting the second and last container of the day. Paul, with help from Ben and Aaron, completes the first in an hour and a half – very impressive. He definitely deserves his breakfast of apple crumble and custard at Route 1066 cafe!

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The welding is taking longer than anticipated and the containers are stacking up at the yard in Robertsbridge. We are under pressure to get the 8 units to site today as the crane needs to be moved before the arrival of the front block tomorrow. It’s very tight but the last units arrive on site and are craned into place with little time to spare. It’s a pretty spectacular sight.

[Day Five]
In with the accountant first thing to run through our books and off to site for 9.30 am. 5 of today’ 6 units are already in situ – the final one arrives and is in place by mid morning. The scheme is beginning to take shape.

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Kim, one of the residents is coming to site. She arrives with Andy Winter and Ian of the BBC. It’s not the One Show. I hear Andy swear for the first time. Kim’s story is a sad one of failure in the way a tenancy is inherited, she is currently sleeping on a friends sofa. It’s a lot for her to take in especially with a camera shoved in your face but Kim does very well. She seems pleased and there is perhaps a little disbelief that in about 4 weeks she’ll be moving in. When asked which one she wants she requests the unit we looked around, a nice coincidence as this will be number 1. Andy, Kim and I are all interviewed by Ian. I’m nervous infront of the camera, perhaps it showed as my interview is edited out. But the coverage is good. Kim and Andy do great.

BBC News Coverage

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End of week one. I’m pleased as bar the odd hiccup everything has gone to plan. Its flown by, I’m grateful to all involved thus far and looking forward to the weekend. The next week will see the roof installed (we’ve got green roofs and some solar panels to generate some electricity onsite), the stairs and walkways will follow with the mechanical and electrical connections. The final finishing touches; a bike store, postboxes and some planters should all be ready for the first 30 tenants to move in on 25th and 26th November.

Containers solution to the housing crisis
Brighton shipping containers installation - week 2...