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McGee uses Asta Powerproject to make the ‘impossible’ Mayfair Hotel Megabuild a reality

Asta Powerproject®

Specialist Engineering Contractor, McGee, used Asta Powerproject to sequence and manage a ground-breaking five-storey mega basement for Claridge’s Hotel. Our cutting-edge planning and project management software enabled McGee’s project managers to implement pioneering techniques, mitigate structural risk, and coordinate material movements on an incredibly challenging site.  

Asta Powerproject allowed McGee to: 

  • Sequence the execution of a 65,000-square-foot basement extension underneath a live hotel – something other engineering companies said was impossible. 
  • Coordinate complex labour schedules involving regular building contractors and a team of mining contractors working around the clock.  
  • Synchronise daily material deliveries from an offsite holding yard due to lack of storage space on-site.  
  • Complete the five-storey mega basement six months ahead of schedule to critical and customer acclaim.  

The project received a Fleming Award and a Ground Engineering award and was the subject of a BBC television documentary, The Mayfair Hotel Megabuild 

Accepting an ‘impossible’ engineering project

McGee has a reputation for accepting ambitious projects – from complex demolition work to facilitate the UK’s HS2 high-speed railway line to leading Phase 3 earthworks for the redevelopment of London’s Battersea Power Station. 

But these projects seem straightforward compared to the trailblazing work that McGee completed for Claridge’s Hotel in 2015/16 when they took on a job that no other engineering company thought was possible!  

Claridge’s wanted to increase its capacity by 50%, adding a five-storey mega basement underneath the hotel. The new 65,000-square-foot underground space would house two swimming pools, a spa, a state-of-the-art wine cellar, a kitchen, and laundry facilities.  

This plan was ambitious in itself, but another layer of complexity existed. The hotel needed to remain open throughout the build, and construction works could not disturb the first-class experience that Claridge’s Hotel guests expect to receive.  

 “Every other company invited to tender wanted to do a traditional project, but the client was adamant that they didn’t want to close the hotel. But whenever someone says something can’t be done, we say challenge accepted!”  Michelle Mackey, Project Engineer, McGee  

Sequencing a programme with pioneering techniques  

The hotel’s extension plans carried significant risks. The new mega basement was situated directly underneath Claridge’s Art Deco extension, constructed in the 1920s on a single reinforced concrete slab.  

McGee’s Project Director, Jim Mackey, developed a creative construction plan to be executed by Project Engineer (and Jim’s daughter), Michelle Mackey.   

“We did some trial works to determine what the existing building structure was made of and what was and wasn’t possible, then Jim sat down with our technical department and put together a 3D animation of the sequence.” 

With the high-level sequence mapped out, Jim handed the project to Michelle, who needed to turn a static plan into something more dynamic. Michelle chose Asta Powerproject planning and project management software to rise to this challenge.  

“Asta Powerproject enabled me to put in the detail we needed and then roll the programme up, so we could still present a high-level view. We didn’t need everyone to see tasks hour by hour, but going into that level of detail meant we could flag any potential issues early on.” 

The Claridge’s project was divided into multiple phases, starting with a team of miners hand-digging a network of tunnels directly underneath the hotel. They dug down 30 metres to create a series of shafts that would become the hotel’s new foundations.  

Concrete was poured into the shafts to create the new foundations, and new columns were constructed from within the shafts for the existing hotel building to rest on. Then the team excavated 500 cubic metres of earth from around the columns, using heavy machinery assembled underground, to construct the new five-story basement. 

“Once I set up the programme in Asta Powerproject and tested the first few lines, I felt confident that I could sequence the project from start to finish and there wouldn’t be any errors.” 

Managing complex time and material schedules  

 It wasn’t just construction techniques that challenged McGee. Working on a landmark building in the middle of London also presented logistics challenges, as the excavation work involved removing 45,000 tonnes of clay through one hole just 2.5 metres wide.  

McGee could not store waste material on-site due to insufficient space. Instead, materials had to be moved to and from Claridge’s daily from a nearby holding yard, with a single loading area on-site. Asta Powerproject delivered the precision planning needed to ensure materials were collected on schedule, preventing programme delays.  

“The Claridge’s project was very complex by nature. We had one space to work in, and all our equipment and materials came in and out of one opening. Asta Powerproject allowed us to take just-in-time material planning to the extreme.” 

The project also involved coordinating tradespeople working two different shift patterns. While standard building contractors worked Monday-Friday, 8am-6pm, two teams of miners worked seven days in alternating 12-hour shifts.   

McGee used Asta Powerproject to coordinate site resources with material requirements, managing the pace of work to synchronise deliveries with their progress.  

“We never wanted to be in a situation where teams arrived for their shift and the materials that they needed weren’t available. Or a situation where we couldn’t get materials in fast enough. With Asta Powerproject, we could drop a line down the programme to monitor and adjust progress on a daily basis.” 

Some material deliveries were time-critical, like the thousands of tonnes of concrete needed for the basement columns. Michelle’s team needed to ensure that mining work finished at a time when concrete could be delivered to fill each shaft as quickly as possible.  

“We used Asta Powerproject to coordinate both timings and logistics. For example, we couldn’t have mining teams finishing on a Saturday night and then the base of each shaft being left open for 30 hours until the concrete could arrive.”  

Coordinating construction in the presence of paying guests   

If project logistics weren’t challenging enough, McGee also had to coordinate site activity around what was happening in the hotel.  

In addition to ensuring overnight guests weren’t disturbed, Claridge’s hosted several high-profile events during construction – including the Harper’s Bazaar Women of the Year Awards and the hotel’s annual Christmas tree launch.  

To minimise disruption, front-of-house staff devised a traffic light scheme highlighting times of caution and complete silence.  

“When we were working directly below the existing building, the noise would reverberate up through the hotel, but we were able to sequence work in Asta Powerproject to ensure we met noise schedules.” 

While initially, staff would block out whole days for important events, this impacted the progress of extension works. To avoid delays, the front-of-house team worked with McGee to determine times when work could continue (for example, during drinks receptions with a lot of background noise) versus critical silent points (such as wedding speeches).  

Asta Powerproject’s detailed timelines meant Michelle and her team could work tasks around hotel activities to continue as effectively as possible while minimising the inconvenience to paying guests.  

A five-star finish, delivered ahead of schedule  

With significant structural risks, out-of-the-box techniques and the restrictions of a live hotel to contend with, a lot could have gone wrong with the construction of Claridge’s Hotel mega basement. But meticulous planning and execution through Asta Powerproject ensured that McGee delivered the five-storey extension on time and to an exceptionally high standard.  

In fact, McGee delivered the agreed programme six months early, so Claridge’s Hotel could expand the brief to add further elements.  

This incredibly ambitious project quickly captured the construction industry’s attention: Fleming Award in 2018, with judges saying, “it really did stand out in terms of rigour, technical complexity and innovation that ran through the project from start to finish” 

It was also highly commended at the Ground Engineering Award in 2019, with one judge remarking that “the project was undertaken within extraordinary operational constraints and with exceptional human endeavour.” 

Most importantly, the new mega basement has been very well received by Claridge’s Hotel customers, who continue to leave five-star reviews.  

Making confident customer promises  

Before embarking on the Claridge’s Hotel project, Michelle described herself as a “nervous” Asta Powerproject user, but her confidence and expertise have grown since then.  

She has just completed an 800-line programme for a new engineering project, and the development of her Asta Powerproject skills (and her colleagues’ skills) have helped shape the way McGee plans and executes construction work.  

“Rather than creating an initial high-level programme and trying to figure out how long a project will take, we can now look at how long each task takes, and Asta Powerproject will give us the overall length of the programme. It’s made us more confident in our promises to our clients.” 

Moreover, Michelle sees the value programme management software can bring to site operations – particularly in cities, where lack of space makes logistics challenging.  

“Project management software isn’t used enough at site level. We’re not waiting for a planner who doesn’t know the ins and outs of a project to do a weekly site visit. Because we have Asta Powerproject, we can share data and discuss the effect of doing one thing versus another in real-time. I think that’s invaluable.” 

The power behind successful projects: book a free demo to explore Asta Powerproject.

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