So once the project team have finished sighing with relief, no doubt their chests will swell with pride: Terminal 5 has come in on time and to budget.
That’s a fine achievement for any £4.3bn project, especially one built on a difficult site that had to accommodate the horribly complex services of a modern airport. If you really need to find fault, you could say it lacked the sex appeal of Richard Rogers’ other recent terminal, Madrid Barajas, which won the Stirling prize. But this design is an innovative approach to a cramped site: the solution being to stack it high and insert breathing space around the outside. Let’s hope that they resist the temptation to fill it with so much retail that it begins to resemble all the other airports in the UK.
But what of the wider impact? T5 was, after all, to form a template for the 21st century. This is more of a mixed report, largely because most firms never work on a £4.3bn job. But they all need designs and they all need deliveries, so all have lessons to learn about consolidation centres and the use of single project models. Then there’s the adoption and adaption of off-site manufacture and T5’s concern with the welfare of the workforce. These are fine legacies.
Its success is harder to translate when it comes to grand strategy: the approach to industrial relations and client risk, as enshrined in the Major Projects and the T5 agreements. The first of these gave skilled workers a £55,000 salary, and this led to a (largely) strike-free project; Olympic Delivery Authority please take note. The second was a unique construction management form in which BAA took on the whole of the project’s liability. According to Tony Douglas, the managing director of T5, that saved BAA £1bn.
The main question that remains from the success of T5 is why BAA is so unwilling to repeat it. Ferrovial, its new owner, has dispensed with the in-house project management team that made it possible, and has indicated that it will be adopting the very 20th-century practice of transferring risk to the contractor (page 26). Times change, of course, as does the economic weather, but it’s hard to accept that all those visions of a happy, profitable and integrated industry began and ended with one building in Middlesex.
Denise Chevin, editor
So, farewell then, Stephen Timms. As the number of Labour’s construction ministers lengthens, so their time in office shortens: Timms managed seven months. Eventually they’ll be visible only with advanced optical technology. And hello Baroness Shriti Vadera, former-UBS Warburg banker and member of Gordon Brown’s inner circle. At least her tenure should be interesting: a former head of the Home Civil Service said “no permanent secretary could stand her”. Although perhaps a strong-willed approach is just what the industry needs to win some of the political support it had in Nick Raynsford’s four-year reign.