Project Description

Developing on a brownfield site

This brownfield site was bought by Catalyst from Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust back in 2016 to develop 270 new affordable homes at Littlemore Park, Oxford. The development will consist of 6 blocks of concrete frame flats, traditional construction houses, landscaped open space, public art and natural play areas. Not only will this development provide much-needed affordable homes to the city for first-time buyers, but NHS key workers will have priority purchase options too.  

In 2019 SWJ Consulting were appointed to work on the structural engineering aspect of the project by Hill. The main challenge for us at Littlemore Park were the poor ground conditions.  

Firstly, the proposed site was in a defined flood area, but the site itself was big enough for us to develop around the flood plain however, it did have an impact on the placement of the substations. In Littlemore’s case, this floodplain was then utilised to provide an attractive bio-diverse open space.  

A lot of the ground was also heavily contaminated. We assessed the site and the worst of the contaminated areas were remediated and given over to public open space. The less heavily contaminated ground was very loose so we used vibro-compaction to enhance its engineering properties. Vibro-Compaction is a type of ground improvement technique commonly used to transfer structural loads when ground conditions are poor.  Unfortunately, we were forced to pile the residential blocks/flats as no amount of ground improvements would have been sufficient.  

We have extensive experience with brownfield sites and bad ground and have been able to save clients significant amounts of money by finding viable solutions. There have been several occasions where sites were not going to be developed until we proposed alternative foundation solutions. Our feasibility service and investigations for alternative foundations can add value for developers now looking at the grants offered by the government to develop brownfield sites. We are willing to offer a free no-win-no-fee site appraisal for developers and design and build contractors.  


Project Team

Client: Catalyst Housing Limited 

Architect: LAP Architects

Contractor: Hill Group

Due to the scale of Littlemore Park, we took advantage of the opportunity to benchmark the automatic generation of reinforcement drawings and schedules against traditional drafting techniques. The tools used to do this were Revit, Sofistik and CADS RC. This allowed us to hold all the analytical and drawing information in a single model which eliminated errors in duplicating the information from one piece of software to another.  

This meant the client not only benefited from high-quality design, but it saved the project time as the model and reinforcement detailing was within one central database. We also completed all the reinforcement detailing in-house to ensure it is correct and any changes could be made immediately.  

This is another example of who we are pushing technology and streamlining our processes to make them more accurate and efficient. 

If you would like a second opinion on a brownfield project or a feasibility study for development please give us a call on 01993 225 085 or email