Employer: Morgan Sindall

Project: Lairdsland Primary School, Kirkintilloch

Jim Wilson’s experience on this school new build ranks high among the tales of the unexpected that crop up so abundantly in the sector. For, just as the piling works were about to start, a breeding pair of mute swans chose the canal-side scheme as their nesting site.

With their 12-week breeding cycle, the legally protected species posed a big risk for the 59-week programme. Jim responded with a battery of measures. He installed noise and vibration monitoring systems that issued text alerts to the site team if an agreed level of disturbance was exceeded – if the nest was abandoned because of site disturbance, the project would have been liable. He put in a time-lapse camera to monitor the nesting swan for signs of distress. And he resequenced the piling to begin in the area furthest from the nest to accustom the swans to the activity.

The swan successfully hatched her eggs and Jim successfully dodged a 12-week delay. Naturally, it wasn’t the only challenge for Jim. Land contamination, Japanese knotweed, and extensive service diversions figured. And running a site next door to the client’s headquarters building would have given many construction managers pause for thought.

He implemented the lean construction agenda of look-ahead programmes. He engaged all subcontractors in collaborative planning sessions and fortnightly progress meetings. And he backed that up with daily monitoring of site activities.

Jim gave the buildability advice crucial to achieving the timetable. For example, he replaced the timber batons for the underfloor heating with screed plus timber overlay. He changed the energy centre’s foundation solution from piles to a raft slab.

His management programme progressed four weeks in advance of the contract programme. That gave a final month for the rigorous snagging that rounded off a robust quality plan that included creating a sample classroom to ensure quality buy-in early on. It also provided the much needed float for incorporating additional works such as managing all the loose furniture for the project.

The result? A 10/10 recommended score from a delighted client for the ‘perfect delivery’ of a safe, on-time and snag-free building.