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Paul Purser

Kier Construction

Paul Purser’s dynamic and positive approach delivered success on this project through a mastery of the ground. He unlocked the scheme for the client by proving that the site’s igneous bedrock was fractured and could be excavated with conventional machinery. He tackled the superstructure challenges with equal problem-solving verve. And his client relationship was good enough to see the client’s security team train his gatemen in the stringent access protocols and gain dedicated construction use of a side gate.

About the Project

Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth

Construction of physical training centre, completed in 77 weeks.

Client: Defence Infrastructure Organisation

Contract: NEC 3, option A

Value: £9m

With planning conditions forcing this physical training centre to be largely hidden within a rocky embankment, Paul Purser delivered success through mastery of the ground.

Igneous rock is so hard that excavation is an expensive and risky undertaking – so much so that some competing contractors withdrew their offer after studying the client’s bore-hole surveys. Undertaking his own trial hole pit excavations to expose a large area of the rock head, Paul determined that the rock was fractured and could be removed with conventional machines rather than specialist rock rippers and breakers. The resulting programme shrinkage, cost savings and disruption reduction for the live site unlocked the scheme for the client.

The initial plan was to remove 19,000 tonnes of material from site to form the cut for the building to sit in, and import material at the end of the scheme to backfill against the building’s 5m-high perimeter wall (another planning condition designed to conceal the new building within the landscape). However, Paul found a nearby area of wasteland where he was able to store some 3,000 tonnes of material before reusing it as the backfill. The major cost savings as well as the elimination of lorry trips from a town with very limited access greatly benefitted the project.

When landslides and poor weather led to tip closures that hit the off-site muck shift, he gained access to more waste land to stockpile material on, allowing works to continue. And when the groundworks contractor ran out of lorries to meet the off-site requirement, he found a waste broker prepared to lease sufficient vehicles to step up production.

Paul tackled the superstructure challenges with the same verve. Experiencing significant downdraught from an adjacent helicopter practice landing area that made rapid roof installation a necessity, he found a roof insulation board with a single-ply membrane pre-attached.

He found a solution for a difficult-to-install bombproof steel sheet in the fabric of the building by getting the sheet sizes reduced to a manageable weight. He then designed an install sequence that not only made the required vertical stacking of the sheets possible, but maximised sheet-fitting production.

His client relationship was also good enough to win the unique privilege, within six weeks of site start, of getting the institution’s security team to train two of his gatemen in the stringent access protocols and gain dedicated use of a side gate.