Wattisham Airfield recreational training centre

Laing and its supply partners started on site on this army physical and recreational training centre at Wattisham Airfield near Ipswich in April. It includes a 25 m long swimming pool, squash courts, a fitness training room and associated facilities.

Due for completion in May 2000, the project is now two weeks ahead of schedule. There was an 18-month lead in to gauge the client's needs and plan the schedule.

The cultural change demanded by Defence Estates' Building Down Barriers ethos has not been easy to put into practice. Laing director of external services Geoffrey Wort says the greatest scars came from forcing consultants and contractors to act in a new way. "The professionals find it difficult to listen to the specialist subcontractors. This is a major issue for the specialists, causing them to think about their role." The project also highlighted the problem of designers not listening to the client. "The designers and professionals feel they know better than the client what the client wants. They have to get over this mindset. I wouldn't want to use the word arrogant – it's a business-as-usual attitude." But this works both ways. Specialists must stop just responding to orders and start contributing earlier in the design process.

Foster and Partners was originally the architect, but the MOD opted for a design that Foster was not comfortable with, so Charter Partnership took the reins.