Sponsored by Hays Construction


Dean Cobley
Senior project manager
Marriott Construction (Kier Regional)

Project: Brockington College, Enderby, Leicestershire: construction of three-storey school, completed in 65 weeks
Value: £14.5m
Contract: JCT 2005

Dean Cobley is a people person who puts his faith in forming strong relationships between key stakeholders – while recognising their often conflicting positions. The sheer variety of his enthusiastic supporters on this contract – client, consultants, subcontractors and users – testifies to the success of his whole-team approach and insistence on honesty, trust and frequent dialogue.

From the start, he heavily involved himself and his team in stakeholder meetings, even those not directly concerned with the design and build, to create a total team ethos. It resulted in a remarkable project team spirit.

Cobley had such confidence in the team’s ability to deliver that, even before the first sod was cut, he committed to opening the school eight weeks earlier than the client’s aspiration. Shortening the construction programme also generated the cost savings required to bring the school within the project budget while still meeting the design vision.

He progressed solutions as a team, refused to play subcontractors off against each other, and won confidence through straight talking and honesty. He appointed key subcontractors early and benefited from their advice.

He also involved suppliers in meetings to ensure everyone was familiar with the materials and how they would be incorporated.

His management of the site, situated next to the still-functioning school it was replacing, was so skillful that, as he had promised in the tender interview, the school head was unaware most of the time that there was a construction site on the other side of the hoardings. It was tidy and well organised, with properly stored materials and good parking, and as safe for school pupils and staff as it was for site workers.

Cobley balanced quality, timing and budget with skill. He worked hard to retain the defining design features of the school, recognised when key decisions needed client and design team input, and had the patience and negotiating skills to strike fair agreements.

Courteous, client-focused and professional, Cobley led by example. His proactive and practical management and tight programming achieved all the project objectives.


Guy Lacey MCIOB
Operations manager
Willmott Dixon Construction

Project: Macclesfield High School: part new-build and part-refurb of school, completed in 78 weeks
Value: £14.6m
Contract: NEC 2 option C

Guy Lacey knew he’d cracked this project when, during one of his user site tours, an astonished teacher was told the room he was standing in had been his pre-project classroom.

Any project that extends a facility as much as this one (65% was new-build) runs the risk of not achieving consistency of finish across the new and refurbished areas. But Lacey eliminated that risk by championing a quality-focused approach within the project team.

He introduced a bespoke quality plan and held regular meetings with the supply chain to ensure that standards were met. Three months before completion, he held handover meetings with the users and other stakeholders.

Achieving that level of finish was a particular triumph given the project’s financial difficulties. When one funding body didn’t deliver at the 11th hour, £1.3m disappeared from the budget and Lacey had to turn to value engineering.

Despite starting onsite £350,000 over budget, he found the necessary savings, mostly through prudent risk management and more productive construction techniques. Not only was Willmott Dixon’s financial position protected, but the school also gained an extra £450,000 worth of wish-list enhancements.

Aware of how important it is to ensure users get what they want, Lacey made huge efforts to grant them their wishes. An early partnering workshop, for example, revealed that the project’s notional design did not fully meet their aspirations. The users got what they wanted: wide circulation spaces, social areas and a 30% increase in the new-build’s floor area.

Lacey demonstrated that rare talent of combining straightforward honesty with a touch of diplomacy and delivered this striking project on time and on budget.


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