Project planning

  • 23 June 2022

Estates Manager Andrew Gair’s relationship with Gonville & Caius College has been marked by coincidence and timely circumstance.

Andrew’s role is to maintain, restore and project manage the College’s buildings and properties, which is something of a challenge when many are listed and of architectural and historical significance.

His responsibilities are many and varied. He had a pivotal role in the Kitchen Refurbishment, particularly from a sustainability perspective – shown in the video below, and more of which to follow in a future news article on the College website – and this summer is overseeing the restoration of the Gate of Virtue, to name just one task on his to-do list.

Andrew says he has been described as “like a pig in muck”, as he is able to use his engineering degree to tackle environment and sustainability challenges in the College, with the expert insight and support of Fellows including Professors Alex Routh, Axel Zeitler, Rob Miller, Jason Scott-Warren and Paul Binski.

Both Andrew and Domestic Bursar Jennifer Phillips work in tandem to forensically plan and carry out projects, after Jennifer’s predecessor, Alan Jermy, recognised the importance of a role Andrew began initially on a 10-month secondment from a local engineering firm.

“The far sightedness of Alan Jermy was to have someone on the inside who knows how the College works, can speak as client to external consultants and contractors, but on the inside can speak as the consultant to the fellowship and staff – it is exactly the right pivot point,” Andrew says.

“In a nutshell that is what my job has become. A place like this can only run effectively if you have sufficient time for this, which is made possible by the hard work of Tim Lee, Les Setchell and the maintenance department.”

Andrew has been at Caius for 12 years, with relationships within the College community and in the commercial sector imperative for the projects he oversees.

He adds: “You need skilful people to deal with what on the whole are listed buildings which are in conservation areas. Relationships with contractors and consultants are key, giving the Bursary forward financial planning is key, and it has to fit into the timetable of the academic year. The big projects and small projects all matter.

“Now we’re coming to dealing with the whole carbon issue. That plays completely into the engineering degree I studied 30-odd years ago. It’s exactly what I was doing then. One of the reasons I returned to engineering is because of the passion in energy, controls and the environment.

“My boss at Mott MacDonald used to say to me that I didn’t think like an engineer, and I was able to bring a different approach to solving problems. I guess that inspires me now given the carbon reduction problems that we face. It is an approach completely supported by Jennifer Phillips and Robert Gardiner (the Domestic Bursar and Senior Bursar, respectively).”

Andrew changed tack – appropriately for someone who enjoys sailing in their free time – after university to study Theology at Westcott House, a masters in London and then became a priest at a parish which included an Army barracks. Coincidentally former Head Porter Russ Holmes and Tim Lee, the Head of Maintenance, spent time in the same regiment.

A further change of tack saw Andrew return to engineering, initially with commercial firms. He was living near King’s Lynn at the time and attended church at Terrington St Clement, the Parish church of Edmund Gonville, who founded the College in 1348.

“To have gone there and to now find myself here working at the College which bears his name, is a huge coincidence,” he adds.

Andrew has a number of large projects running concurrently. This summer the Gate of Virtue is being restored, and planning continues apace for the Aston Webb refurbishment in St Michael’s Court, where most of the work is scheduled to take place in 2023. He is also managing the heat recovery project which is a by-product of the Old Courts Kitchen Refurbishment Project. The heat generated from the kitchen and its fridges is being used to heat water, but such is the efficiency of the process, the plan is to also heat the Chapel, the Master’s Lodge and more of Gonville Court. A more detailed article is to follow on this project.

“That will be my biggest legacy at Caius,” Andrew adds.

“I want to take these ideas forward and replicate them as best as possible with Harvey Court, Tree Court and elsewhere… there are equally innovative opportunities in various parts of the College’s estate.”

Caius, sustainability and working with a Grade I listed building

Estates Manager Andrew Gair describes how the project considered the environmental impact of our catering operations to ensure our Grade I listed buildings had kitchens fit for the 21st century, with waste heat used to heat water and food waste sent for composting.

For more on the Kitchen Refurbishment Project, visit:

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