Employer: Wates

Project: Dowty Propellers, Mitcheldean

‘Fast track’ does scant justice to Dave Norman’s project. His client may not have had a building or a design but, after its propeller factory had burned down, it needed a replacement ready in six months so it could keep its delivery promises to customers.

Partway through the intense four-week pre-contract phase, a suitable building was found and Dave took the lead to adapt and refurbish it with just five months to go. You might think it would have got easier from then on. It didn’t.

The client had lost everything in the fire, including virtually all services information, so the technical brief had to start from scratch. Only as the client purchased each of the 370 pieces of equipment required for the factory fit-out could detail be given about the service supplies needed.

Dave installed a ‘ring main’ for each service around the process areas, sizing and installing the service drops as precise information became available. He addressed the lack of precise knowledge by making sure all the main plant was oversized or could be expanded.

It was all about making a ‘live’ design process work, with construction following sometimes as little as 10 minutes after the design decision had been made. Dave developed phasing and construction plans so the client could install its critical equipment in completed areas with the live services needed. He steered the super-fast-paced project through a massive number of changes – some 1,500.

The first big critical date was the handover of a reinforced concrete pit for two braider machines. To construct it in time, Dave moved to longer working hours and double shifts, constantly revisiting the detailing and sequencing to reduce programme. His introduction of an incentive plan for the key trade involved was also instrumental in achieving the handover date – 10 days early.

Even then, there was never any let-up on this project. The discovery of asbestos debris across the whole roof and services zone in a building let as ‘asbestos-free’ required a four-week clean-up. Dave instigated phased environmental cleaning on night shifts, testing at 7am every morning to allow the day shift construction works to continue.

He beefed up the large amount of construction plant needed within the building for the works by adding catalytic converters to diesel piling rigs and ground works machinery. With 80 mobile work platforms in the factory at peak construction, he installed dedicated MEWP charging stations across the site.

Propeller blade production is peculiarly sensitive to dust contamination. As the existing roof steelwork and services were in very dirty and poor condition, he brought in specialist contractors to clean and repaint 80,000sqft of roof.

Dave delivered every handover on time. Even a catastrophic flood two weeks before practical completion did not knock him off course. He dried out and retested the entire electrical system, ensured the building was safe, and reviewed the programme and critical trades. He then pushed on to complete an exhausting but superbly executed project.