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Gold winner

Employer: Wates Construction

Project: Vita Student Accommodation, York

Budget was the crux of John Laycock’s student accommodation project.

His ability to remove inefficiency and the inessential rather than quality saved millions and brought the costed design within the budget. He got the planners onside early by eliminating piling for the 15 new-build blocks to minimise the impact on the archaeology. Once the cost cuts had made the scheme viable, he made the delivery work through canny methodology and materials choices, and fine planning.

When John Laycock first walked onto site to meet with a Poor Clare nun, he knew this project – which included a listed convent, a protected orchard and a graveyard that needed to be kept accessible throughout – would be special. .

Budget was the crux of the student accommodation project. With the costed design of £52m well beyond the client’s initial £40m budget, something had to give. Thanks to John’s adept management of a value-engineering exercise that left no stone unturned, what gave was inefficiency and the inessential rather than quality.

His value management wins included changing the zinc shingle cladding for the envelope and roofs of four of the blocks to timber-clad walls and a standing-seam roof, saving £1.2m largely by eliminating the need for an additional roof under the zinc to achieve watertightness. Replacing the English garden wall bond of the brickwork and reducing the protruding brick areas saved another £200,000. The glazed roof of the heritage building’s internal courtyard was taken out, removing £1m from costs. A drainage design review and rationalisation brought another £250,000 saving. A full MEP review yielded £1.5m, and so on.

John got the planners onside in the early stages. He divided the bulk site dig into two stages, the first down to the level in the area the archaeologists wanted to investigate. During the three-week delay resulting from archaeological finds, he kept the client informed and worked tirelessly to reshuffle the work sequence, ensuring a perfectly punctual handover.

He decided on shallow raft foundations for the new-build blocks to mitigate the impact on the archaeology by eliminating piling. He reused the bricks from the demolition of existing buildings in providing additional supporting buttresses for the 5m-high listed and listing walls around the ex-convent.

Once the cost cuts had made the scheme viable, he made the delivery work through canny methodology and materials choices, and fine planning. He leveraged the raft slab by introducing lightweight steel frames. Manufactured off site and delivered as panels for on-site fabrication, the superstructure steel took the envelope off the critical path and gave early weather protection. The prefabricated bathroom pods and M&E plant brought similar benefits, along with a labour force reduction on a site closely surrounded by residential neighbours and with just a single point of access.