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The Scottish parliament: a tragedy for the designers but a triumph for Laing O'Rourke

Laing o’rourke
Of course the question that everybody asks about this lot is how a concrete firm could start off with a bank loan and end up with a turnover of about £2bn. And strangely enough, the answer is in plain sight: it does what a good firm does and it does it better than its competitors do. It has resisted the temptation to exploit its workforce as an alternative to investing in research and development. It has integrated the principles of partnering and lean production into its business systems. And, despite the dominating presence of the man at the top, it is structured in a fairly democratic way.

This success is reflected in more than just turnover growth. The firm is leading, and instigating, a fundamental change in construction’s working practices by turning thousands of short-contract workers into full staff members with much shorter working weeks and no cut in pay. Then there is the health and safety record: Laing O’Rourke has an accident frequency rate of 0.40, compared with an industry average of 1.5. Finally, there is the fact that the firm is the only specialist contractor to win the Construct award for innovation and best practice twice.

Runners up

John doyle
One of the things about doing the concrete works for Foster and Partners is that the designs tend to be quite challenging, and the architect can be a bit pernickety about signing work off. So the way this firm delivered its package at Albion Riverside is a good indication of its ability. In case you don’t know, this was an 11-storey apartment block with slender slabs and freeform curving balconies supported by 40 differently shaped, steeply angled exposed concrete pillars. John Doyle finished the job flawlessly.

Pc harrington
This reinforced concrete specialist prides itself on its skilled and experienced personnel and its investment in research and development. It has allied itself with a leading manufacturer to work on the next generation of falsework systems, to produce new techniques for using formwork screens and formwork hoists – the only company in the UK to do so. The firm has pioneered the rehabilitation of of slipform construction, which it used to construct the UK’s largest concrete core at Barclay Bank’s headquarters in London Docklands, and it regularly handles pours of 2000-3000 m³ – and even managed one of 4800 m³ at Wembley stadium.

Whelan & grant
This firm has picked up some of the finest battle honours in British construction over the past five years or so. Its fair-faced work on Allies and Morrison’s Southwark headquarters was widely admired within the industry, and many of its other projects – for example, at St John’s College Oxford, the Welsh assembly building in Cardiff, the Milton Keynes Arts Theatre and Saïd Business School in Oxford – are mini-demonstration projects for the kind of quality that can be achieved with a little concrete and a great deal of skill.