CMYA Finalist

Employer: Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure

Project: Littleport and East Cambs Academy

Andy Walsham blended extensive knowledge and experience with common sense, a calm approach and humour to deliver this complex and potentially difficult education and leisure complex on time.

With the biggest scheme it had ever commissioned on its hands (a sports centre and three schools on the same site), the client derived considerable comfort from having Andy Walsham’s name at the top of the project organogram. Having worked with the council – and a great many other clients in a long and varied construction career – on previous successful projects, Andy already had the relationships, the trust and the reputation to get what was by some way the largest value project he had ever managed off to a great start.

He went out to see the groundworkers, the M&E engineers and the steel fabricators/installers on other sites to get a feel for how they operated. His resulting shortlist of key contractors for the project set an impressive quality and productivity tone.

Andy blended extensive knowledge and experience with common sense, a calm approach and plenty of humour to deliver this complex and potentially difficult scheme on time. His ingenious technical solution to the poor ground conditions of a peat-based floodplain was both cost-effective and impressive.

He installed 27,000 vertical drains at 1m centres to a depth of 6m all around the footprint of the buildings (which sat on piles driven 20m deep) and the site boundary to deal with the sinkage challenge. Combined with material fill, the solution enables any compressed/trapped water in the ground to rise into a filtration zone and be drained away. While expensive in isolation, it eliminated the need to pile the roads and drains. Floor levels were also raised 500mm above sea level, and flood-resistant construction techniques and material were used on the ground floor to protect against future flooding.

Other innovations introduced by Andy included structural insulated panels instead of a steel-framing system, and a combined heat and power setup, which delivered cost and programme advantages.

His determination to interrogate the programme thoroughly led to the identification of a seven-week gap between the installation of the sports centre pile capping and the arrival of the steel for the frame, which he made productive by getting the ground slab in prior to the steel delivery. Likewise his reconsideration of the methodology prompted him to put in a temporary tarmac road around the site; it cost £90,000, but saved up to six weeks on the programme in poor winter weather periods on a contract where prelims ran at £25,000 a week and there were hefty overrun penalties. The initiative contributed mightily to project completion two weeks early.

Unflappable in the face of adversity, Andy prioritised people, communication, relationships, honesty, integrity, trust and humour. He got his team working for each other, driving them to achieve the agreed goal and motivating them in the face of the inevitable challenges.