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How Murray Birrell has helped house and rehabilitate Armed Services veterans - Image

How Murray Birrell has helped house and rehabilitate Armed Services veterans

Murray Birrell is delighted to have carried out work for SSAFA, the Armed Forces Charity. The charity provides lifelong support to currently serving men and women and also veterans from the British Armed Forces and their families or dependents. SSAFA called upon the breadth of experience and depth of expertise Murray Birrell has developed during 25 years as a chartered building surveying practice.

Part of the support SSAFA provides to meet the different needs of the serving and veterans communities is maintained accommodation. Amongst their properties, the Royal Homes in Wimbledon provides homes for the relatives of veterans, with SSAFA’s Norton Home providing free accommodation for the families of service men and women who are receiving long-term medical treatment, previously at Headley Court, Surrey and
now at Stanford Hall, Nr Loughborough.

Norton Home, Stanford Hall

Captain Peter Norton lost part of an arm and a leg as he investigated a bomb that exploded in Baghdad in 2005, killing four US soldiers. He remained conscious and guided his team away from further bombs before allowing them to give him first aid. He is credited with saving the lives of at least seven soldiers and was awarded the George Cross, the highest gallantry award for actions not on a battle field.

His wife Sue led a campaign to establish a respite and support home close to the MOD’s occupational therapy and rehabilitation centre for severely injured service men and women, which was sited, until September 2018, at Headley Court, near Leatherhead, Surrey.  SSAFA provided a property nearby, which they named a Norton Home. Injured men and women receiving treatment could join their families temporarily staying there to spend time living together as a family unit in a domestic rather than an institutional environment. A second Norton Home was established near the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham for the same purpose.

In summer 2018 the Headley Court facility was relocated to the new Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre (DNRC) in Leicestershire. SSAFA were approached about providing a new nearby home to accommodate up to six families at a time and match the standards of Norton Home, Headley Court, which had seen over 10,000 visits since 2008.

Here at Murray Birrell we were delighted to become involved when SSAFA asked us to advise on an initial scheme just outside Loughborough in Stanford on Soar to convert a suitably sized detached house to a Norton Home capable of delivering family living in a disabled environment.

As the scheme progressed we were asked to further advise on detailed designs and time and budget constraints to meet DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) 2004 requirements. This can include wider doorways, signage that can be seen from a seated or standing position, colour contrasts for door furniture, auto door operators, audio information, adequate way finding and level access or lift access.

Royal Homes, Wimbledon

This property is a Grade II listed estate built in 1904 and made up of four separate apartment buildings set in attractive gardens. Within these four buildings there are 75 separate dwellings for the relatives of Armed Forces veterans as well as on-site office accommodation for the estate manager and her team, and accommodation for the resident manager.

SSAFA directly employs a team of tradesmen to maintain the buildings, though due to the sheer extent of what continually needed doing on an ad-hoc basis their workload became increasingly reactive rather than preventative. This eventually created an extensive maintenance backlog which resulted in SSAFA appointing Murray Birrell to prioritise a planned maintenance approach. Our response was a phased repairs approach, working on a block by block basis.

SSAFA initially required only significant health and safety works and extensive concrete repairs to balconies of one of the blocks were carried out in autumn 2016. However, it was then agreed to extend our remit to include full external repairs involving overseeing brickwork, pointing and stonework patching to address heavy weather damage and cracking.  In addition, the original Westmoreland slate covered roofs were overhauled and replaced where necessary, and the lead detailing repaired or renewed to provide a robust envelope. External windows were repaired and repainted.

Extensive envelope repairs have now been recently completed on the three other apartment blocks.

With offices in Mayfair and Bromley, and a client list including prestigious companies in the property development and management sectors, we have provided building consultancy services for over 25 years. If you’d like to consider Murray Birrell working on your next project please email us at the meantime please follow us on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

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