Meet the finalists

SCHOOLS ABOVE £20 M
All Finalists2020 Winners

Ben Harvey MCIOB

Willmott Dixon

Ben Harvey delivered this large school project – his first as a construction manager – defect-free, on time and within budget. He reworked a programme he wasn’t familiar with when he arrived on site at a project already running late just one month into the construction period. He found the game-changing opportunity in a bold resequencing. His can-do attitude, knowledge and keenness to deliver a quality scheme enthused the client and the site team and made a very complex project look very simple.

About the Project

St Nicholas SEN School, Purley, London

Construction of four-storey replacement special needs school, completed in 118 weeks.

Client: London Borough of Croydon

Contract: NEC 3, design and build

Value: £21m

With this new-build school already running late just one month into the construction phase, the client stepped in and called for someone it trusted to take over. And so Ben Harvey arrived, not so much a grizzled troubleshooter as a new and capable talent. With two on-time and defect-free school projects with the client under his belt and newly promoted to construction manager for this one, he still had it all to do on a job much bigger than his previous successes.

He found the game-changing opportunity early on, in the methodology. The original plan was to form three separate structural steel frame towers one by one, progressively loading each with precast floors and stairs, then binding the tower together with progressive-collapse reinforced-concrete works before moving onto the next tower. Ben realised that he could do better by building the roof and cladding the sides progressively, allowing the internal trades to start on the top floor and work down and out.

For a site so heavily constrained on three elevations, with little in the way of working and storage space around the building, Ben devised smart innovations to simplify construction and accelerate the programme. He brought in self-erecting mobile tower cranes to distribute materials over the building, lifting mobile elevated work platforms onto the external terraces so the facade and cladding could be completed without scaffolding. He located and secured the largest concrete pump boom in Europe to reach the far end of the site. The design itself used such sustainable techniques as using the exposed concrete soffits for thermal mass, and natural ventilation units were installed.

The defect-free handover came directly from a passion for quality that is near-obsessive. Ever since a project he was involved with as a junior manager went wrong, he has vowed never to repeat the experience. On this project, he instilled his passion for quality into the whole team by talking regularly about the standards he expected, and making it clear what the project meant to the SEN children who would be attending the school, as well as their families.