Meet the finalists

Higher Education
All Finalists2020 Winners

Ashley Dale

Sir Robert McAlpine

In only his second project manager outing, Ashley Dale brought together two design teams with diplomacy and despatch. He delivered a quality building within the agreed time and budget, having built up a sizable terminal float by speeding up the bulk dig and the piling. When issues arose on site, he resequenced smartly and efficiently. He protected and enhanced the client’s design vision, successfully focusing the requirement for savings on elements that did not affect aesthetics or functionality.

About the Project

Durham University - Mathematical Sciences and Computer Science Building

Construction of four-storey science block, completed in 112 weeks.

Client: Durham University

Contract: NEC 4, option A

Value: £32m

Ashley Dale’s calm, controlled and structured approach kept this science block scheme on the rails from tender to handover.

Determined from the outset to speed up the programme to create a time buffer towards the end, he found the key in progressing the bulk excavation by simultaneously working on opposite sides of the site, doubling the piling rigs, and changing the piling design

With a marked difference in cut-off levels for the closely grouped piles, he installed the upper-level piles first before removing the extended piling platform to construct those at a lower level. His groundworks initiative delivered a seven-week terminal float that proved invaluable after Covid struck mid-project, allowing him to complete on time as well as within budget.

He came up with a buildable solution for the facade of a protruding line of boxes separating each layer of glazing. With the boxes too heavy to hang off full-height curtain walling, as originally conceived, Ashley built a steel frame back to the structure to support the boxes and the curtain walling. The introduction of a composite insulated panel behind thinner-gauge cladding also got the building watertight quicker, so the internal finishes could start earlier.

When issues arose on site or variations were introduced, Ashley resequenced smartly and efficiently. He overcame a six-week manufacturing holdup for the cladding panels in a courtyard by rescheduling the work, installing temporary weatherproofing and adding labour for the delayed internal fit-out and cladding installation.

Ashley’s considered approach to value engineering and innovation ensured no hidden costs to the client emerged during construction or subsequently. He sought to understand the client’s design vision so that it could be protected and where possible enhanced, focusing the search for savings on elements of the scheme that did not affect the vision or the aesthetics. For example, the overbudget ceilings were progressed to a slightly amended design to give the acoustic performance that was a priority for the client, while more cost-effective solutions were sought elsewhere.

His thoughtful design enhancements included a super-strong plasterboard that allowed heavy items to be attached direct without specialist fixings. As well as benefits during design development, it permitted numerous items to be fixed to the walls after users moved in without affecting internal finishes.