Responding and adapting to change is a way of life for the construction manager. It’s the client’s privilege to demand change – those who pay the piper naturally call the tune – and the construction manager’s success lies in reconfiguring the construction approach, often with impressive insight and invention, to enable that change whenever necessary.
Howard Monsen showed himself a king of change management on this project to build three academic blocs on the Swansea waterfront. On a £31m contract, he drove through a hefty volume of client variations worth £5m without expanding his site team or pushing back the completion date – the all-important red line in the education sector.
These were not cosmetic alterations to the building fabric or finishes, but significant revamps of the original design and M&E. They included changing a third-floor teaching space to accommodate 400 people rather than 70, fitting out robotics and engine dynamometer labs, providing café/kitchen facilities (which required a complete redesign of ground floor and atrium space), and fitting out the rolling road and spray booths in an automotive engineering space.
And even before those changes, Howard had set the project on the road to success through a buildability and risk management onslaught in the precontract. His extensive early earthworks interrogation delivered £100k of savings by using ‘cut and turn’ and a piled foundation to avoid possible ground obstructions at a site that had an existing dock wall running right through it and had been heavily bombed in the Second World War. He also reused existing ground material to reduced the import of new stone and aggregate.
He brought innovation to the project design wherever possible, introducing precast feature arches and prefabricated specialist plant room equipment. By sourcing the lighting through an alternative manufacturer, rationalising the M&E layout and switching from a single-ply membrane to a hot-melt roof, he saved the project £250,000.