Meet the finalists

Higher Education
All Finalists2020 Winners

Nick Claessen

Willmott Dixon

Open, collaborative and brimful of technical insight, Nick Claessen worked extremely hard to deliver a faultless sports science block – the second in an overlapping trio of projects for the client. He smartly overcame the setback of discovering the existing floor slab was suspended rather than ground-bearing, and was commendably innovative in using collapsible cardboard formwork to construct the replacement that was required. Professional, flexible and proactive, he delivered a project that met or exceeded all the client’s hopes.

About the Project

Institute of Sport, University of Hertfordshire

Construction of two-storey sports science block, completed in 46 weeks.

Client: University of Hertfordshire

Contract: NEC

Value: £6m

The construction manager’s ability to hold multiple plates in the air by constant spinning was taken to a new level by Nick Claessen on this sports block. Not only did he start the preconstruction of the scheme while handing over his first project for the client, but he also began the preconstruction of a further project while midway through this second development.

It is abundantly clear why the client trusts Nick for its major projects. Open, collaborative and brimful of technical insight, he worked extremely hard to deliver a faultless project here.

Take his installation of a new mezzanine floor within the existing, full-height performance hall area. Site investigations revealed that what had been thought to be a ground-bearing slab was actually suspended precast concrete planks with a structural topping that could not have supported the new floor without an enormous amount of remedial work and a challenging installation. Nick’s solution? He broke out the precast planks using a small, lightweight electric excavator, then dug and poured mass-fill pad foundations, and finally erected the mezzanine frame with a spider crane crawling on top of the oversite.

With the site survey indicating the original suspended planks had been installed due to risk of ground heave, the new slab also needed to be suspended. Rather than run the risks involved in craning precast planks into an existing two-storey building, Nick poured a reinforced concrete slab on top of reinforced-cardboard formwork. Once the slab had cured, he fed water through filling points cast into the floor to collapse the formwork.