There were some fine employers in the field this year, but Grosvenor won the top prize by taking on a scheme of mind-twisting complexity and turning it into a triumph
The sheer scale of the Liverpool One development, delivered during the city's Capital of Culture year, is breathtaking. Grosvenor worked with a wide and diverse project team to complete 30 buildings, 160 shops, more than 500 apartments, two hotels, leisure and entertainment facilities, 3,000 car parking spaces, a revitalised five-acre park and a bus interchange. In just four years. Clients that are prepared to take on land acquisition negotiations with 275 interests across 42 acres, to mastermind a project with a total investment value of £1bn or to engage with World Heritage Sites, tram systems, city-wide public consultation and 26 architects are few and far between. But Grosvenor went even further: it tackled it in a single-phased project with a very high-profile deadline. The result is a credit to the construction industry and a welcome example of development at its best.
This client has really pushed the boat out the new Sky Sports headquarters in Brentwood, with the ambition of developing the most sustainable television studio in the world. It's no small technical challenge to use natural ventilation throughout studios, offices and plant rooms, but BSkyB has demonstrated a commitment to pushing the boundaries of sustainable design, and the willingness to invest in a building for the future. The Arup-designed building, which is due to be completed in time for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, has a long, long list of sustainable features, including a combined cooling, heating and power plant, rainwater harvesting and higher than normal recyclable materials.
- Imperial College
With 200 projects and a budget of £100m every year, Imperial College is performing wonders at its west London campuses. It has just signed up its third generation of framework suppliers, covering the full range of construction disciplines from cost consultants and architects to structural and M&E engineers and contractors at all levels. Companies who've made it on to the list find it embraces collaborative working and continuous improvement and has a genuine interest in its suppliers. Imperial has also won admirers for its willingness to embrace quality design, and has just become the first university to sign up to the WRAP initiative.
- John Lewis Partnership
Its recent expansion could perhaps be considered aggressive but the John Lewis Partnership's dealings with its construction suppliers are definitely not. Its unique corporate structure shines through. Consultants and contractors praise its fairness, loyalty and understanding of the value of long-term relationships, and the old-fashioned people-skills that mean its project managers get the most out of all members of the team. A considered approach to development makes it a reliable and solid client, but among its recent developments are some of the most ambitious sustainable developments in the retail sector, such as the £45m distribution centre at Magna Park in Milton Keynes.
- Partnerships for Schools
This government client has made great progress since Tim Byles took over in 2006. Its school building programme has sped up considerably, and it is now meeting its own revived targets. With such a large programme in the works, PfS was always going to be an important client for the construction industry, but it should also to be credited with taking a much more active approach to market conditions than other government bodies. It has the knack of foreseeing a crisis well in advance, talking to alternative funders and reaching early works agreements to get projects onsite and keep the construction industry building. It has also listened to the industry's suggestions - for example by splitting its national academies framework down into regional divisions to give smaller contractors a chance to get involved - and engaging regularly with organisations across its supply chain.
Stanhope has won admiration for its rounded approach to development: not only has it produced economic returns for its stakeholders and delivered innovative, high-value developments such as Unilever House and 51 Lime Street, but it has engaged positively with its suppliers. It is genuinely committed to supply-chain partnership and puts its money where its mouth is by spurning retentions for contractors and setting aside an innovation budget on each project to improve efficiency, as well as taking a chance on exciting new architects. Stanhope has also set itself 10 targets for continuous improvement on sustainability and have engaged seriously with the WRAP initiative on waste reduction.