CMYA Finalist

Employer: Mace

Project: The Student Centre, University College London

With understatement, humour and apparent ease, Simon Allen delivered this challenging project to ferociously high standards of quality, within budget, ahead of programme, and with few snags. The outcome of the project at the heart of a university campus is testament to a construction manager at the top of his game.

The challenges included the rear elevation being crane-dependent, with an extra difficulty coming from the need to change over from an existing to a new plant room inside the new basement (obstructing construction of the rear elevation) halfway through the project. Simon also had to drill two ground-source boreholes 110m into the aquifer (as well as instal 400sqm of photovoltaic panels and 10km of embedded pipework) to secure an ‘outstanding’ sustainability rating. Managing a complex coordination exercise between services, the exposed concrete frame and precise slatted-timber finishes was another stretching operation.

Prefabrication was at the heart of Simon’s success. He prefabricated the basement plant so the new plant room could be built and commissioned (and the old one demolished) prior to the completion of the concrete frame. He introduced precast columns to speed up frame construction, and precast atrium stair stringers to reduce the amount of temporary works.

The prefabricated rooflights were lifted into place in one piece, reducing crane dependency by delivering watertightness in one operation. Decorative slatted-timber finishes were prefabricated off site in panels to further speed up site construction works.

He secured the ‘outstanding’ BREEAM rating for the 110m-deep boreholes dug in parallel with the piling works and the start of the basement dig. His active use of building information modelling allowed the location of service penetrations with pinpoint accuracy and ensured the spatial fit of underfloor services without clashing with the raised access floors.

Simon met the client’s budget without losing the emphasis on quality by adopting a value-engineering strategy that interrogated scope rather than seeking cheaper alternatives. And having overcome all the technical challenges and logistics of working in a busy campus, he made sure that all the previous hard work and successes did not go to waste by securing timely finish.