Meet the finalists

Higher Education
All Finalists2020 Winners

Nick Proverbs MCIOB

Willmott Dixon

Arriving four months after site start, Nick Proverbs inherited a project seven weeks behind, with problems in the ground and with the performance of key supply chain partners. In a rags-to-riches story, he delivered a spectacular-looking building whose minute attention to detail has delighted the client. His determination to achieve exceptional quality was the key to getting the project out of its hole. His perseverance and hard work turned potential failure into completion glory.

About the Project

Engineering Building, Birmingham

Construction of five-storey research and teaching block, completed in 129 weeks.

Client: University of Birmingham

Contract: JCT, design and build

Value: £50m

Arriving four months after site start, Nick Proverbs inherited a project seven weeks behind and falling ever further into arrears. A combination of an overhasty construction mobilisation and the discovery that an existing attenuation tank was leaking had put the scheme into difficulties and badly strained the client relationship.

Nick’s decision to prioritise exceptional quality was the key to getting the project out of its hole. By delivering a spectacular product, he made his customer exceptionally happy.

He overcame potentially disastrous difficulties with the specialist supplier of the in-situ exposed-concrete frame. With the frame a high priority for the client as a learning tool and celebration of engineering for the students who would be the building’s users, the significant shortcomings in finish were unacceptable. They included an unsightly cold joint in the completed wall of one of the cores caused by serious delays in the supply of concrete during casting.

How to avoid the catastrophe of having to break out and recast the core? Nick identified a specialist whose use of lime-based colour-matched fillers erased the visibility of the joint – and other imperfections within the atrium – from the surface of the concrete.

When Covid struck, taking out half his workforce on a £50m project that still had £30m of work to complete, Nick bit the end-date bullet. With quality his battle-cry, he persuaded the client to push back the completion date in order to deliver an exemplary handover. The result: a spectacular-looking building boasting minute attention to detail that delighted the client.