Sheila Silver Library, Leeds Beckett University


The four-month £1.4 million refurbishment of the Sheila Silver Library was needed as part of Leeds Beckett University’s ongoing upgrade and maintenance programme of its city centre campus.

Sewell Construction was appointed for the third phase after completing the previous £1.5 million phase, which saw the second floor refurbishment of the same library.

The long-standing and trusted relationship ensured continuity for the client, who knew we would deliver on our promises.



Based on our well-established relationship with Leeds Beckett University, we offered the same delivery team for this phase of the project, providing continued consistency following the previous work.

We approached our previous supply chain, as they had knowledge of the building and the client, which ensured a smooth transition and the ability to build on an already very positive partnership.

Before work began, and throughout the project, our site manager had daily meetings with the library staff to ensure work would not affect, disturb or disrupt the staff and students.

From a very early stage, we asked for a timetable of key dates regarding exams and other important times to ensure minimal disruption.

We knew the project involved demolition, so we ensured plans were put in place to carry out that particular part of the project out of hours, avoiding disruption to the end user’s normal working day.

As we had already worked on the site, we followed similar programme considerations and had daily meetings with staff to keep them up to date with progress.

Before installation, we carried out Sewell whole point checks to ensure everything was in place the various stages would meet quality standards.

Using key contractors from the previous phase enabled to supply chain to fall into place very easily.

Additional development considerations included Sewell Facilities Management providing a small overview to offer added value for the client.



We stripped everything out so we had a clear floor, enabling full reconfiguration of the space to erect walls, plaster, install partitioning, skim and fit doors.

The main milestones in the project included full refurbishment of the existing space, demolishing walls, redesigning the floor layout, installing new ICT and library facilities, and creating meeting rooms and breakout spaces as part of a full modernisation programme.

The time frame to complete the project was tight at just four months and we held countdown to completion meetings with the end users to they knew what to expect, and how all of the new systems in the space, such as heating and air conditioning, worked.

The majority of the team had already worked on the site and the bar and standards were set high from induction.

As the project progressed, we held regular ‘walk-rounds’ with the client and end user to ensure every detail was taken care of, adding sockets and other design tweaks to ensure a smooth handover and easy use when the space became operational again.

We created ICT clusters fitted out with bespoke furniture to enhance the students’ experience of using these spaces, and also liaised with the university’s contractor to ensure furniture arrived at the right time and was in keeping with the existing space in a seamless transition.



The refurbishment was delivered on time, on budget and without any accidents or defects.

About 70% of the labour was local, two apprentices were based on site and local spend was 76%.

A local supply chain was used throughout and the team went the extra mile to provide a book collection service for students using the library.

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The project had potential to be very disruptive given the working environment in a live library and, whilst some disruption was inevitable, Sewell’s delivery team managed to build on the excellent relationships with the library team developed through the last phase of work.
Sewell and the delivery team ensured the library and other stakeholders were kept up to date with the construction works and worked around the library’s day-to-day routines to ensure a smooth delivery.

David Hughes, Project Manager, Estates Services, Leeds Beckett University