The Caudwell International Children’s Centre in Keele, Staffordshire is a newly opened £18m state-of-the-art facility for children with autism that nearly four years ago was in the planning stages. Enter Lustalux. C4 Projects, having worked with the business before, had wanted some advice on window graphics, explains Lustalux sales specialist Robin Longton, but the brief quickly expanded.
“It went from a query about simple window manifestations to a full scheme including the supply and installation of external signage for the building, secondary external signage such as car parking and directional signage and wall graphics around the building, interior wall graphics and directional signage, manifestations for the glazing and door signage,” he says.
A job of this size and complexity can present multiple challenges, explains Longton who acted as lead on the project, such as the number of contractors involved, the different products, timescales and branding requirements and in this case meeting the strict requirements of a condition such as autism.
“Often with projects like this, you could be dealing with multiple site-managers and contractors all wanting you to jump through various hoops and meet different deadlines, but in this case the main contractor had already handed the new build over to Caudwell by the time we got to the manufacturing and installations phase which thankfully took that aspect out of the equation,” Longton says.
He explains that although Lustalux had not had a lot of experience, at the time, with autism, the firm already had a track record in the care sector built over its nearly 30-year history.
“We’re known for our work in the care industry so that’s where we fitted the bill here,” he states.
“We do a lot of work around dementia and there are certain things to consider in the signage for dementia care homes; it’s about calming and generating memories and conversations. So, we knew it was really important to firstly understand autism and its requirements,” he adds.
Key to the smooth running and success of the project was a close working relationship with Caudwell, Longton explains, with multiple visits to the site and to meet the client in order to structure the brief and fully understand the needs of the centre.
“One particular thing that was very much part of the brief was that they didn’t want it to look like an institution – a hospital or clinic. It had to look more welcoming and informal,” says Longton.
“We had to follow the Caudwell brand guidelines in terms of colours and fonts but also we needed to understand that the facility users were going to be children with autism, so we made sure the whole team had an overview of what that meant,” he explains.
“The internal signage had to be calming and not over-stimulating; simple with no bright colours or busy images, in order to create a peaceful and calming ambience. So that was key to what we designed.”
Longton explains that the timescale of the project was longer than usual in the care sector due to it being privately funded, in part by philanthropist John Caudwell, therefore affording the client the time to “get it absolutely right”.
This factor, in turn, gave the Lustalux team time to perfect every detail, so while the initial query came in four years ago, planning took place in phases with the final push and the manufacture and installation coming to fruition from mid-2018 with completion in May this year. A combined period of around nine months, according to Longton.
With such a wide range of work to produce and install, Longton says that attention to detail during design and planning was critical as well as a clear and realistic production and installation schedule.
For the Caudwell project the range of work included internal full-colour wall graphics on self-adhesive, matt-laminated, wall-wrap vinyl, modular aluminium insert door signs, and contour cut bespoke manifestations of the Caudwell butterfly design in silver etch self-adhesive vinyl for the internal glazing. The external work included powder-coated modular aluminium sign systems and aluminium panels with vinyl graphics.
One of the finishing touches of the project was a ‘Thank You wall’, comprising brushed steel flat-cut letters spelling ‘Thank You’ with small hooks on each letter from which are hung a series of fret-cut acrylic butterfly key rings, created by Lustalux, featuring the names of those who have contributed to the project.
“We produce a scale visual of each sign, graphic or manifestation and send them for approval so the client knows exactly what they are getting for every sign so there are no surprises or issues when you arrive on site,” explains Longton.
“Once the planning is done and it’s all signed off by the client all the materials get ordered and the production starts, then we have a period of manufacture in the on-site workshop going through artwork, production and final checks,” details Longton.
Next the project is passed from the production to the installation team who work to an agreed schedule.
“As the sales and project manager on this, I was responsible for overseeing each stage and making sure things were on track. We also have a production and installations manager who I liaised with regularly, which was critical,” Longton says.
In total, production took around four weeks and three for the install, with the artwork being stored at Lustalux’s site until each new phase of installation to avoid the risk of damage or loss. Again, the install phase took place according to a strict plan starting with external signage moving to internal and working through the building methodically floor by floor to completion. With a headcount of 14, the Lustalux team completed the Caudwell project with four in planning, six in production and four doing the install.
According to Longton, the fact that nothing “went awry” throughout the planning and execution of such a multi-layered project, was primarily due to care taken during planning and led the business to deliver on time and on point.
“We’ve had fantastic feedback from the client in terms of the processes and the finished products,” says Longton. “We’ve heard it’s been really well received by the users and parents too.
“There is a huge sense of satisfaction when you see a job through from beginning to end and particularly one like this where you know you are helping people that need extra care. We’ve done our bit to help make these children’s lives easier and better. “
Longton says the job has also boosted the company as a whole.
“Because it’s a very specific project it gives us the experience and confidence to go for and take on other work like that in similar settings. And similarly, if people are looking for companies that can take on this kind of work, seeing these results gives them confidence that we can successfully produce a scheme such as this.”
Location Preston, Lancashire
Inspection host Robin Longton, signs, architectural wrapping and graphics sales, Caudwell International Children’s Centre project lead
Size Turnover: £1.5m; staff: 14
Products Lustalux designs, manufactures and installs window film, vinyl graphics, business signage, and illuminated signs throughout the UK
Kit HP DesignJet 360 Latex printer, Mimaki CJV 300-160 solvent printer, Mimaki UCJV 300-160 UV printer, Graphitec FC8000 plotter, Easymount Laminator, Rolls Roller 605 flatbed applicator, modular aluminium signage system
Inspection focus Undertaking, planning and executing a complex, multi-faceted job
It’s all about the planning, according to Longton. Be thorough, produce scale visuals and keep the lines of communication open. Although it may take time, the more detail you put into the planning stages, the less likely mistakes will occur later on
Time management is key. Allow some leeway in your schedule for the unexpected – sometimes the smallest thing can derail the schedule which will have knock-on effects across the project
When working on a project designed around the special needs of a condition such as autism, make sure the whole team has an understanding of what it is and its requirements. The greater the team awareness, the better and more thorough you can be
Don’t over promise. Don’t be pressurised to agree to something you might ultimately let site managers or clients down on, so be realistic and honest