Firm rejects criticism of its ‘unrealistic’ programming of Scottish parliament

by the Building news desk

Bovis Lend Lease has rejected Lord Fraser’ criticism of its role in constructing the Scottish parliament building in Edinburgh.

The 267-page Fraser report outlines a catalogue of failings on the Holyrood project. Fraser rounded on the scheme’s architects, the role of civil servants, and the construction management procurement route.

Bovis was criticised for its programming of the project, the cost of which rose from £40m to £431m. The report said the tight programme proposed by Bovis and accepted by the client was incompatible with the design changes required by the architects.

The report said: “It ought to have been more completely understood by the client that high-quality design takes time, and that the programme itself was unrealistic given the complexities of the design … Bovis should have understood that too.”

The report said Bovis probably appreciated that there would be buildability problems with the highly complex and non-standard designs that were emerging from the architectural team, but turned a blind eye to them.

Lord Fraser says: “In my view their programmes reflected the political imperative for early completion. Bovis reported to the client with a degree of optimism that was often not justified.”

Harry Thorburn, managing director of Bovis Lend Lease (Scotland) said he noted Lord Fraser’s comments on programming issues and the political imperative for an early conclusion. However, he maintained that “at every phase of this long and complex project, our programming reflected the best outcomes achievable, based on information supplied by the design team and trade contractors”.

Construction management was the only contract option

Harry Thorburn, Bovis Lend Lease

Thorburn took issue with Fraser’s scepticism about the procurement route, saying: “The reality is that construction management was the only contract option for a client wanting to start a project that was still at the design concept stage.”

He added that, had the client waited until the design was complete to appoint a contractor, the parliament would have been greatly delayed and more expensive.

Thorburn said each programme was accompanied by a detailed commentary on the assumptions and commitments made by designers and contractors.

QS Davis Langdon came under fire over the foyer roof. The cost of this element rose from £1.5m to £7.4m. The report said: “While my primary criticism is with the architect, Davis Langdon might also have taken a more proactive role in identifying that designs were being developed outwith the cost plan and drawing that to the attention of the client.” DL refused to comment.

Brian Stewart, chief executive of architect RMJM group, which undertook the project with Enric Miralles’ practice EMBT, said: “We wholly accept the report.

He said: “It is balanced and what is gratifying is that it recognises that it was a very ambitious brief.”