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Project: The Orchard, St Bernard’s Hospital, Middlesex: construction of 60-bedroom secure mental health facility, completed in 77 weeks
Contract: NEC design & build
The complex and inescapable trade-offs in the design and construction process make it all but impossible for a construction manager to please every project stakeholder. But Ben Stevenson achieved a near-miracle on the Orchard, with the client, designers, consultants and suppliers as well as the construction team all singing his praises.
His upfront, helpful and open management style was perfect for a contract predicated on mutual trust and co-operation. The project offices were open plan, with cross-discipline seating, workstations for subcontractors, and space for the client’s representatives all helping to integrate the team.
Stevenson encouraged sleeves-up problem solving through daily briefings and workface discussions with subcontractors, designers, the client team and clinical staff. He embodied and propagated the spirit of the NEC contract by insisting that the discussion and resolution of issues took priority over recording and administering.
He used the early warning system to give the client advice on costs and programme implications that helped it make informed decisions on enhancements.
Stevenson’s mastery of specification meant that Kier and the NHS shared a £700,000 budget gain. For example, he instigated a change from a concrete frame and blockwork walls to steel frame and lightweight walling. With test results showing that the proposed aluminium windows were not secure enough, he upped the specification to steel, relieving the resulting pressure on the budget by introducing a cheaper, but still robust, roofing solution.
From the start, the NHS trust had engaged independent consultants to monitor the construction programme.
This was, after all, the biggest Procure 21 project the trust had ever undertaken, and the first facility of its type in the UK. Month after month the consultants validated Stevenson’s management and progress, and concluded at handover that in detail, quality and accuracy, the project was the best they had ever audited.
Project: Roland Levinsky Building, University of Plymouth: construction of eight-storey faculty, completed in 119 weeks
This project benefited from Graham Kingdon’s firm hand. With the Danish architect for the iconic structure struggling to come to terms with British regulations, Kingdon recovered the position while staying true to the concept, and became the main focus for driving the design process forward.
He established open lines of communication and ensured the team met at least once a week to keep on track and address issues. Assisted by the core construction team from a previous successful contract with the client, he helped foster good team spirit, backing it up with evenings out and fishing trips.
Kingdon continuously developed the project risk register, using it to focus the team on the big issues and to ensure that all parties bought into mitigation measures. It helped drive the strategy on the complex envelope by procuring the copper roof and curtain walling packages through a two-stage tender that resolved all the design interfaces at an early stage.
His decision to undertake an enabling works package was vindicated when it uncovered archaeological finds, old bomb craters and uncharted asbestos-lined air raid shelters that could have jeopardised the main works.
When he lost 10 weeks on the concrete frame construction, Kingdon clawed it back by changing the roof build-up to gain initial weather resistance, and replacing scaffold with cradles to minimise internal areas restricted by propping.
He kept the project financially viable by value engineering the core and circulation space. Lowering the building height by rationalising roof plant space and using a post-tensioned concrete frame saved another £2m.
He also successfully managed client expectations by building full-size mock-ups of the exposed concrete and services to fully agree the specification. It established quality benchmarks and was extended to the construction of sample rooms.
Kingdon delivered on schedule and on budget to a highly satisfied client.
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