CMYA Finalist

Employer: Farrans Construction

Project: Chichester Free School

Speed of completion had raced up the priority list by the time Jerome Curran took on this complicated refurbishment and new-build scheme that had been delayed by three years after two other contractors failed to meet the initial programme and cost objectives. As well as time and budget, the challenges included stringent height restrictions imposed by the local planners and the refurbishment of a ruined 19th-century convent (with a bell tower that could not be fully accessed until significant demolition had taken place) as the heart of the scheme.

Rather than placing the considerable risks in the client’s ownership, Jerome took the lead in reviewing them and finding ways to reduce them. An extensive original list of 48 risks was whittled down to three.

Early surveys indicated far more remedial action than originally envisaged, with virtually all of the convent’s facade needing to be taken down and rebuilt, because the wall ties had been corroded by water from the roof. Instead of proceeding, Jerome brought in a consultant, who proposed a cheaper and less drastic solution, which involved installing chemical anchors in the existing walls.

Jerome changed the internal leaf for the new build to Metsec and cement board to gain the programme benefit of overlapping the cladding with the internal trades. He changed the playground surface to an artificial surface, as the high water table would have made grass unusable for outdoor play in winter months. By redesigning the external layout and swapping a number of areas from paving to tar, he made the change cost-neutral.

He avoided the £1.2m cost of connecting to the nearest mains sewer – the strategy being heavily pushed by the Environment Agency – by bringing on board a hydrogeologist. The on-site waste treatment plant that emerged cost just £300,000.

With the convent refurbishment attracting extensive media interest, he didn’t hide behind the project hoarding and issue flyers. Soon after site start, he installed a viewing platform that the school used for showing the development to staff, pupils and parents, as well as VIPs. Ad hoc visits were easily accommodated without disturbing the construction activities.

Jerome also coped brilliantly with an instruction for highways works so horribly delayed that project completion could have been pushed back beyond the academic year start. He instigated an alternative design solution that removed the requirement for service diversions, saving a substantial amount of money as well as time.

By the time the project finished – on time, of course – the risks had been repulsed and the budget kept intact.