In the first completed PFI project in higher education, a listed Victorian hospital building was converted into an advanced teaching and research facility. The 25-year service contract called for detailed life-cycle costing of materials. Compiled by Jarvis and HLM Architects

At-a-glance guide
Cruciform Building conversion

  • First completed higher education private finance initiative project
  • Conversion of a listed Victorian hospital to provide highly serviced medical teaching and research facilities

<B>Client and location</B>
University College London, London WC1
<B>Construction budget</B>
£28.4m, or £2182/m2, including fit-out and fees
<B>PFI requirement</B>
25-year contract to provide accommodation, building and services maintenance, security and messenger services and cleaning
<B>Cost and procurement constraints</B>



  • 25-year contract meant the life-cycle costs of all elements had to be considered
  • Rapid 21-month construction programme required for occupation at start of this academic year




  • JCT 1981 with contractor’s design
  • Client’s architect and structural engineer novated to contractor for detailed design

<B>Client brief</B>
The Cruciform Building began life in 1903 as University College Hospital, a 300-bed hospital and nursing home built to designs by Alfred Waterhouse, architect of the Natural History Museum and Manchester Town Hall. In 1996, University College London purchased the building from the NHS. The college’s brief was to completely refurbish the exterior of the building and to provide teaching facilities for the merged Royal Free and University College medical schools. These included 345- and 120-seat lecture theatres, seminar rooms, teaching laboratories, faculty library, computer-aided teaching facilities, and centralised sterilising and washing-up facilities.
A second-stage brief was to provide biomedical research labs for 300 research staff, with support facilities and offices in the upper floors.
The decision to procure through a private finance initiative was taken late in the day, just before tenders were invited on a traditional JCT80 basis. As a condition of part-funding by the Higher Education Funding Council of England, an invitation for PFI bids was placed in the European Union’s Official Journal in October 1996. The scheme design was provided by the client’s design consultants and Jarvis/Rotch was selected as preferred contractor from a shortlist of three in May 1997.
The deal, signed in December 1997, was to refurbish the building and provide services over 25 years. These included building maintenance, cleaning and security, messenger services, pest control, laundry and linen, plus a facilities management service via a helpdesk. At the same time, consultants’ appointments with University College London were terminated and appointments established between them and the contractor.
<B>Conversion design</B>
Incorporating new laboratories into the existing building plan proved to be a complex and problematic task. As well as the high level of servicing necessary for general laboratories, the specialist containment suites needed to be serviced with high-quality air, water and medical gases. Waste-handling and hygiene strategies had to be developed and co-ordinated into the overall design. Extensive new service risers were cut through existing floor slabs, and plant rooms had to be incorporated in the wing towers and roof spaces without affecting the external architecture.
Variations in floor level, vertical alignment and dimensions between wings meant that much of the fit-out of services and laboratory furniture had to be designed specifically for each space.
The exterior design was discussed in some detail with English Heritage, local authority conservation staff and local conservation groups. Parameters were established, including the demolition of many later additions to the building, such as the rear service areas, and agreeing a strategy for recladding other “post-Waterhouse additions” with new brick and terracotta to match the original design.
The poor condition of the roof was improved through structural work; roof slates were replaced and the original roof profiles reinstated by removing more recently added vents, rooflights and stacks. All non-original metal and PVCu windows were replaced with new timber vertical sliding sashes to match remaining originals.
Internally, main entrances, stairs and landings were conserved and restored. Wall areas of the central core circulation stairs were stripped of plaster to reveal elaborate glazed brick detailing. These had some surface damage, and tests were carried out to find a repair method that could reface and colour-match the original. A similar process was carried out in the north wing entrance lobby, which is entirely clad in marble panelling in arched forms typical of Waterhouse’s work.
Design development required continual liaison between representatives of end-user, client, PFI consortium, facilities manager and design-and-build contractor, as well as the usual architects and engineers. An informal system of direct communication between designers and end-users was set up that greatly assisted the design process and delivery.
<B>Life-cycle cost control</B>
Before private finance initiative bids were invited, an elemental cost plan was developed in sufficient detail to provide clear design-budget guidelines and ensure that the design development programme was economically controlled. Detailed requirements and feedback from users on items such as laboratory furniture were incorporated into design within the cost plan. These design improvements would have incurred additional costs if initiated after the PFI procurement exercise had taken place.
After the PFI contractor was appointed, a number of value-engineering initiatives were carried out by Jarvis, in consultation with the architect, structural and services engineers, to demonstrate value for money against a detailed public sector comparator. This, coupled with the early commencement of the extensive strip-out package (underwritten by University College London), allowed risk areas to be identified and more accurately priced. Jarvis’ ability to complete the project by September 1999 was also fundamental to the demonstration of value for money against the public sector comparator.
A comprehensive programme for samples and approvals was developed to take on board comments from all interested parties, including planning authorities, end users, the design team and the FM company.
Operation procedures for the completed building were developed alongside and co-ordinated with the building services systems design.
Procurement of materials was not done traditionally, but rather with long-term maintenance in mind. A life-cycle fund, established as part of the tender process, was allocated an annual budget for replacing components of the building during the 25 years of the contract. Assessments had to be made of the longevity of major components, including air-handling units, lift motors and window frames.
During the design development, opportunities to save on the whole-life costs through higher initial outlay were investigated. Capital items selected for particular attention were rainwater pipes and guttering and flat-roof finishes. For example, pyro-coated, pressed aluminium guttering and downpipes were specified, which matched the original cast iron, but required minimal maintenance and repainting.
A cost-value analysis was carried out to evaluate the whole-life cost of a suspended ceiling, taking into account additional maintenance costs offset against the reduced cleaning costs of exposed pipework and ductwork. The suspended ceiling was not part of the original design, but both the client and the FM contractor have expressed satisfaction with it.
The age and state of the building meant certain risks were difficult to price and a compromise was negotiated between Jarvis and UCL. A schedule of prices was drawn up and it was agreed that any subsequent work not covered in the schedules would be reimbursed by UCL. For example, where areas of terracotta were scheduled for replacement, Jarvis Construction would carry out the work. If, however, the damage had been caused by a latent defect and more work had to be done – for example, to repair rusted steelwork – that cost would be recoverable from the client.
Responsibility for the adequacy of the design information was taken by Jarvis Construction. Errors in this design information were identified during the construction period, but the costs were contained within the appropriate contingency provision.
Extended manufacturers warranties were sought and obtained for various items, including flat-roofing systems and door furniture.
<B>Construction on site</B>
The conversion of the Cruciform Building challenged the contractor’s planning and logistics skills.
The site is surrounded by busy roads and hospital buildings, including a 24-hour accident and emergency department. The building itself is bounded by a service moat, and the main service access was not available for site access during the first nine months because of extensive sub-basement excavation and structural alteration. So, gantries were used to offload materials. Strict security and materials movement procedures were an integral part of the site control measures.
Vertical handling of materials was achieved using the existing hospital-bed lifts before their refurbishment, and two tower cranes that were strategically positioned within the building footprint.