CMYA Finalist

Employer: Willmott Dixon Interiors Ltd

Project: Twickenham East Stand Development

Taking over this major fit-out of a rugby stadium stand just three weeks before site start after the project leader fell ill, Phil O’Brien had to get himself up to speed with a wealth of information and relationships in a heavily squeezed time frame. It was a fitting introduction to a scheme with such a compressed programme that he lost count of the number of times he was told ‘Phil, it’s not going to happen’.

It didn’t take long for a massive headache to set in with the instruction to add a sprinkler system to the works. As sprinklers affect the position of every other M&E system, the 33-week contract period should ordinarily have been stretched out to over 50 weeks. But with the client understandably focused on opening the stand for the revenue-generating autumn international season, Phil issued a 41-week programme.

To minimise delay, he brought in a sprinkler specialist to rapidly create a design for the M&E. He met each subcontractor individually to talk through the resource and commitment needed to deliver the project by the agreed completion date. And site operations proceeded day and night, around the clock, with the accelerated programme sending the peak labour force soaring from 200 to nearly 500.

Doable? Well, the sceptics should be forgiven their doubts (even though Phil proved them wrong), given a noise curfew prevented forklift movements during the night shift, and the staging of 12 major events during the works for 50,000-80,000 spectators repeatedly brought works to a virtual standstill as construction areas to be clear from 48 hours prior to each event right through to 24 hours after. The stadium’s internal perimeter concourse, for example, which was used by the project to store materials and for waste handling, had to appear as if a construction team had never been near it for each of those 72-hour periods.

And despite limited opportunity for value engineering during the construction phase to avoid the risk of significant changes inevitably slowing down progress, Phil still managed to innovate effectively. To address the huge challenge of the movement of materials and waste, he introduced a spiral concrete walkway, with forklifts and a team of drivers feeding materials to the bottom of the ramp while a smaller forklift took them up to every floor and brought waste materials back down. By getting them to work 13-hour shifts, he ensured the night team could work productively by having all the materials needed for each night’s work available at the workplace at the start of the shift.