Meet the finalists

ACCOMMODATION UNDER 4 STOREYS
All Finalists2020 Winners

Jack Wells

Willmott Dixon Construction

The Homestead Building, St Albans

Jack Wells handed over this 83-bedroom student housing project defect-free. His rigorous planning, timely action and meticulous monitoring delivered quality on a scheme with eight different bedroom types, 14 wall types, 13 window types and five roof types. His value-engineering targeted buildability gains rather than quality downgrades, and his introduction of prefabricated bathroom pods was the key to meeting the programme. His success has won him the further job of a 50-classroom block for the same client.

About the Project

The Homestead Building, St Albans

Construction of student accommodation with 83 bedrooms and social/amenity spaces, completed in 58 weeks.

Client: Oaklands College

Contract: NEC 4, option A

Value: £9m

When Jack Wells told the client’s project manager that he intended to hand this student housing scheme over with zero defects, she was understandably sceptical. Not only would that be a rare achievement, but the project had started six months later than scheduled after the original contractor pulled out.

Jack seized every opportunity to surpass what was expected, through rigorous planning, timely action and meticulous monitoring. He rose to the challenge of eight different bedroom types, 14 different wall types and 13 different window types (with no single supplier providing everything, and no specialist supply chain partner), by managing the supply chain ultra-carefully. Sample rooms were created – one at first-fix, and another complete with furniture so the client could see exactly what the finished product would be and supply chain partners understood how to achieve it.

He delivered the quality he had promised while making the value-engineering gains needed for the scheme to come within the client’s budget. His decision to change from traditional concrete blocks to a clay version that was lighter and faster to install saved the client £80,000. His re-engineering of the car-park attenuation delivered another big saving.

Equally significant, and not only in cost savings generated without quality loss, was his introduction of bathroom pods for the 83 ensuites. The prefabricated pods were fundamental to meeting the cast-in-stone project deadline that prevails in the education sector.

As the commissioning phase began, the pandemic struck. Jack revised the programme to dedicate specific zones of the building to individual trades teams. The bathroom pods then really came into their own, as far fewer site workers were needed to install them, allowing rooms to be finished in a socially distanced way. And while Jack himself had to suddenly self-isolate for a fortnight and remote-manage the project, he still handed over on time – and defect-free. His success has won him the further job of a 50-classroom block for the client.