CMYA Finalist

Employer: Willmott Dixon Construction

Project: Milton Keynes Museum Expansion Project

Unlike the previous contractor, which had walked away from this stalled new-build gallery project due to budget issues, David Rowell found a way around every obstacle, however intractable.

When the groundworker went into administration a few months in, following a parent company reorganisation, and all its permanent staff were replaced with agency workers without the same experience or motivation, David avoided the legal difficulties involved in terminating the contract. Instead, he supervised the groundworkers extremely closely, stepping in to show them what to do, and not hesitating to insist on one section of drainage being removed and rebuilt five times in total.

When the design manager left two months into the project, he took on the role himself. When he realised that the museum’s roller racking system for the storage building would not move easily over the cambers of the planned precast concrete floor, he identified an alternative beam and block system that would work with the roller racking.

When big height differences – from 15mm to 42mm – were discovered in the 8m-long precast concrete planks installed in the galleries, raising the risk of the floor covering cracking as a result of voids beneath the floor insulation, replacing the planks would have delayed the whole contract. Instead, David filled the deep voids with sand, compacted it and then laid a self-levelling slurry beneath the insulation.

Not only did he resolve problems efficiently, he also prevented them cropping up in the first place. With bricklayers in short supply for building the white brick cladding of one of the galleries, he took it off the critical path by having the inner blockwork constructed first, to make the building weathertight. The bricklayers were then able to install the white brickwork at the right pace to achieve the essential high-quality finish.

He changed the very thin membrane of the roofing material to a more robust (and cheaper) product from the same supplier so it wouldn’t be damaged by the installation of solar panels. He resequenced the bottom-up installation of one gallery’s interlocking stainless steel shingle cladding to after the completion of all the other external works to prevent any damage to the shingles, which would have meant removing and reinstalling the lot.

Whatever it took, David did it. He delivered a zero-defects build on time and to budget – the final contract value uplift was the result of variations, including a forgotten humidity control for the galleries.

He overcame the groundworker’s liquidation, his design manager’s departure, defective floor planks and unsuitable product specification to hand over a zero-defects build on time and to budget. Courteous, considerate and confident, he went above and beyond the contractual obligations to make life easier for the client and users, confounding all expectations of a difficult and disruptive scheme in the process