Case Study – The AHOY Centre, Deptford – Portable Offices

Situated on the banks of the river Thames,The AHOY Centre is a registered charity based in Deptford, London that helps disadvantaged youngsters and people with disabilities to become involved in water sports. The AHOY provides a range of courses and activities using the medium of rowing and sailing to educate and bring people together from all different walks of life to help each other.

It was officially opened in May 2004 by The Princess Royal and, since then, the centre has assisted over 9,000 people to experience sailing and other water sports and to gain recognised water sport qualifications.

In 2011 it was decided to expand the centre to incorporate training rooms and specialised equipment for the growing number of participants and to launch their two new projects – ‘Pulling Together’ & ‘Show Me Why’.

Because the building is literally on the Thames wall, flexible and durable accommodation was a necessity together with the need for speedy construction.  As a result, the AHOY Centre approached Portable Offices to provide modular buildings as part of a full, turn-key package.

The Portable Offices’ team worked in tandem with the AHOY Centre management and volunteers to include specific design features and to price-engineer the building to meet the budget criteria.

Despite the difficulties with limited space and access, the contract proved to be a source of inspiration to the Portable Offices’ team who added a number of complimentary personal design features in order to optimise the build for the charity.

This included adapting the building so there was no transfer of noise or vibration from the dedicated rowing room on the first floor where all 18 rowing machines are linked together with data share equipment to facilitate a simulated rowing race.

The new state-of-the-art facilities will enable the growing number of disadvantaged and disabled people to accurately simulate exact rowing conditions and to go on to try their hand at an increasing array of water sports including a specially built craft – which can be solely manned and crewed by people with disabilities – The AHOY Freedom.

Clive Ongley, MBE, Chair Trustee and one of the Ahoy Centre’s founders, oversaw the construction of the new facilities, working closely with the Portable Offices’ team. He commented: “As an ex-builder and developer, I was very impressed with the way in which the company dealt with things on a practical basis and the way they overcame any problems.

“They came up with good, practical solutions to any challenges that appeared..  Contracts such as this are never easy; quite often they are more of an ‘art form’ than an exact science, but, although I was a hard task master, the team never failed to deliver. It was an enjoyable experience dealing with them and I would happily work with them again.”

The name of the AHOY Centre is an acronym of Adventure Help and Opportunities for Youth Centre and is an accredited RYA sailability centre and has instructors, boats and launching equipment that enable it to provide tailored sailing courses for people with serious disabilities, including those in wheelchairs.  This equipment includes a 40 ft long power-boat, the first of its kind in the world, that is designed so that it can be crewed entirely by people with disabilities. The boat has cctv cameras allowing the crew to easily view all angles around the craft, and state-of-the-art controls that can be used with small finger movements,

In addition, the centre’s partners in the probation service and the police refer to the centre youths identified as being at-risk due to their home circumstances or their association with gang violence or religious fundamentalism. Such youths benefit from the structured environment, the new and challenging activities, and the presence of strong role models. They may go on to gain qualifications and even become instructors in their own right.

The versatility and flexibility of the modular buildings provided to allow the expansion really came into their own in this instance as waterways are notoriously difficult places to establish new buildings.  Neil Christie, Manager of Portable Offices Luton depot said: “It was a rewarding experience working for such a worthy cause and the flexibility of our modular buildings really came into their own on this contract.

‘’Portable Accommodation can be versatile not only from a building point of view but also offers major benefits such as speed of installation and price accuracy to assist with client budgetary constraints’’

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