1st - Thomas Vale Construction
Thomas Vale is not the largest company in this category, but it has picked up a reputation as one of the most intelligent. It knows what new construction means in theory and has done its best to find out what it could mean in practice. So, it has figured prominently in the Movement for Innovation, the Construction Lean Improvement Programme, the best practice initiative and the work of the strategic forum. In particular, it has teamed up with Kidderminster college to set up courses for its own staff and its supply chain. Thomas Vale has also proved itself a responsible contractor, estimating that it has talked to 10,000 schoolchildren about health and safety and the pleasures of a career in the industry. It's no surprise, then, that profit has risen by more than a fifth in the past year – nor that it came top of the clients' questionnaire, sent out as part of the judging process.
'Always at the forefront of change and innovation, this firm impressed us with its lean construction initiative and its first-class safety record'
2nd - Simons Construction
Simons formed a joint venture with French contractor GSE to build a £35m, 1.3 million ft2 warehouse for Asda. Despite the wettest autumn in living memory, problems with planners and too few lorries, the team delivered the project on time and budget. One key to the successful conclusion to the project was the use of a web hub, called "Simons Together", that allowed the formation of a "virtual team" – a special vehicle for a special challenge.
'Its link-up with a French team has produced some blisteringly impressive fast-track projects'
3rd - Bucknall Austin Prime Solutions
Part of the firm formerly know as Citex, this is not your average contractor. In fact, it is a consultant-led joint venture formed to deliver the smart procurement integral to new construction. Since its inception, profits have almost quadrupled. In 2002, delivering the prime contract for the redevelopment of the Ministry of Defence's Andover North site, the firm employed fully integrated project teams and open-book accounting as standard.
'Not so much a conventional contractor, more a consultant-led joint venture … it has built the MoD's new £40m Andover North site'
4th - Dean & Dyball Construction
This Hampshire-based firm is a model contractor. It is an accredited Investor in People, its environmental performance has passed regulated international standards and it has just won a gold award from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. In the past year, the firm's profit increased sixfold and it undertook the £14m design-and-build of Old Manor Hospital, in Salisbury, on a virtually paperless basis, using a cutting-edge project extranet.
5th - Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick is, of course, well known as a civil engineering contractor, particularly to anyone who ever uses roads. However, its building division is eight years old this year. The business has expanded into sophisticated work throughout the healthcare, education, industrial, leisure and rail markets. The control systems it has developed have resulted in zero defects on large projects and an average of 10-15% has been saved by value engineering.
6th - Crown House Engineering
The company is a favourite contractor of demanding clients, such as Coca Cola, Argent, Microsoft and Lloyds TSB, partly because it has such formidable abilities to come up with imaginative solutions, and the economic power to deliver them. The firm recently decided to build a 53,000 ft2 manufacturing facility. Unsurprisingly, with a service like that, Crown House Engineering manages to bypass most tender lists: 19 projects out of 20 are directly negotiated.
Building Awards 2003
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Contractor of the Year