Employer: Sir Robert McAlpine

Project: The Grande Development, Aberdeen

Few of the professional team have the construction manager’s determination to make things happen, and few construction managers have John Cole’s determination.

This is a man who, hospitalised following a motorcycle accident late on in the contract, was attending project progress meetings by video conference less than a week after being discharged with a plaster cast still on and crutches at his side.

John had thought through this job for an eight-storey 13,600sqm office block base build and fit-out right from the outset. He established the risks on the tight programme and budget, assessed the pinch points on the critical paths, and acted forcefully but collaboratively to expedite and mitigate matters.

As soon as the project got on site, the problems multiplied. The discovery of possible unexploded ordnance buried deep in the ground he dealt with professionally and rapidly, maximising safety while minimising delay.

The piling and the steelwork packages came in substantially over budget. He responded by bringing the whole team together to find ways to take cost out. A simple example: he realised a new tenant’s fit-out variation on the lower levels would result in the removal of the planned carpet tiles, so he omitted them.

Logistics were a potential nightmare. The site was next to a big shopping mall, surrounded by main roads feeding the harbour and city centre, and had little storage and even less laydown area. John derisked the project’s delivery lifeblood by persuading a local developer to provide storage facilities and holding areas.

He tamed the programming and sequencing beasts. With the programme unable to wait until a steel mill could roll the cellular beams, he got the steelwork contractor to take on the beam fabrication. The eight weeks saved maintained the superstructure programme.

John took ownership of responsibility for delivering on time, to quality and within budget. He did so by fostering collaboration through subcontractor walkarounds, and design, client and coordination meetings. And also by making a conscious decision to work weekends and attend night shifts so his presence and support could be seen and felt first hand by the team.

When the project hit its biggest challenge with a tenant completely changing the fit-out proposal halfway through the build phase, it was no surprise that he rose to it. He quickly appraised the effect on programme and cost, while skilfully and diplomatically catering to the concerns of client and tenant. He delivered the budget, the timetable and the quality.