Holding aloft the trophy in this DHL Exel-sponsored category is the M&E division of a contracting giant, which clinched the award by the narrowest of margins on the strength of its client testimonials and enviable profit growth
Along with the team selection policy of Chelsea FC, the performance of subcontractors is something that most people in the industry have an opinion on. Unlike the former, however, there is a great degree of unanimity when it comes to Balfour Kilpatrick. All the clients approached for an opinion had a fairly gushing one. For example: "By far the most responsive M&E contractor we've worked with in recent years" and "Their strength without a doubt is their people who go that extra mile to endure the perfect delivery". And as is only just, that opinion is reflected in the numbers. In a market that has grown steadily tougher, Balfour Kilpatrick's profit has grown steadily greater - up more than 40% in the past three years.
It was a very, very, very close run thing. If we stay with the theme of client satisfaction, there was barely a rabbit's whisker between Billington and Balfour. As part of the judging process, Building asks a random selection of employers to rate the finalists according to 13 criteria: Billington was named the firm with the best understanding of clients' business priorities, the best at completing on time, the firm that added the most value, had the greatest environmental commitment, best administrative support, and the best quality and speed of communications. Better luck next year, guys …
This contractor handles the design and installation of building envelopes, a task it performs using all the techniques and processes of a thoroughly clued-up 21st-century contractor: integration, partnering, environmental awareness, customer focus … But it is one thing to be aware of what you ought to do, another to actually assemble the teams to do it. Judging by the evidence presented in the entry, Lakesmere in action is a thing of beauty. Consider the Diamond Synchrotron, a £235m doughnut-shaped research laboratory, for which it successfully installed 35,000 m2 of Kalzip roofing - a truly remarkable achievement.
This Yorkshire brickwork specialist is a fast growing, extraordinarily successful company. The secret of this success isn't really a secret: heavy investment in training and IT, a doubling in the amount of repeat business and a large majority of its contracts won through negotiation rather than open-market tendering. With that kind of track record it doesn't come as a surprise that the National Audit Office asked Marlborough to advise it on how to build homes more efficiently.
This £20m-turnover concrete specialist has come from nowhere to the verge of the premier league. That growth is partly explained by its mastery of the latest technology - slipform, climbing frames, post-tensioning - and partly its ability to find the right management strategies to grow without unbalancing the company. Take for example its enlightened policy towards its workforce. It has picked the best of the best central and eastern European workers and helped them adapt to British sites. The effect of this policy is shown by the fact that it came top of the finalists for quality of workmanship and health and safety.
One indication of the agility of a company's management and the skills of its workforce is its ability to evolve with its environment. By this measure, Prater emerges with flying colours: it has adapted to meet the needs of off-site manufacturing with spectacular effect: at Gatwick's Pier 6 project, Prater installed more than 1000 m2 of modular roofing panels in one day. This has underpinned a growth in operating profit and turnover that would be good for a dynamic start-up, but extraordinary in a firm with a 50-year track record in the British construction industry.
Building Awards 2006
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Specialist contractor of the year