'This was not just another new building opening…'
BAM Construction's construction director Mike Donegan recounts his experience of being in the thick of the recent terrorist attack in London, and opening a new headquarters for the Metropolitan Police the day after.
On Wednesday 22 March I attended a health and safety meeting at our refurbishment of the Southbank. These buildings – adjacent to the Royal Festival Hall – contain the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and the Hayward Gallery plus back of house areas.
Mid-afternoon my team of 220 operatives and staff were evacuated because of the terrorist incident in Westminster. Calmly and efficiently we left the 550-room site. The Royal Festival Hall and surrounding buildings, containing 1,000 school children and others, were also evacuated.
The alternative, advised by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), was secure lockdown.
Everyone was directed away from Westminster Bridge and the Embankment foot bridge over the river and towards Waterloo station. By this time security helicopters were hovering over the South Bank, Waterloo and Westminster. Westminster Bridge and the Embankment were closed to traffic and police teams in transits were parking up in the Southbank area.
A Royal opening of New Scotland Yard building had been planned for Thursday morning. Of course, the Royal visit could not proceed under the circumstances, but we still met the MPS team on Thursday morning.
Getting to New Scotland Yard meant passing through the security cordon and presenting our passes to armed police. It was very quiet walking down Whitehall without the traffic and with so few people.
Cameras had been set up adjacent to the glass entrance pavilion to allow rolling news footage to be recorded and transmitted. At 09:33, there was a minute of silence to remember those who had died in the attack. The acting commissioner and senior officers formed up outside the building, facing the eternal flame of remembrance.
And that was how the Curtis Green building was presented to the world as New Scotland Yard, the new headquarters of the MPS.
The MPS has been very complimentary about our work on the building. BAM had worked hard on it under intense pressure for 111 weeks.
They particularly liked the collaborative approach we used helping to establish a relationship between us that was based on mutual integrity. This was seen as a major success.
They appreciated the involvement of BAM FM’s “soft landings” representative. This meant we were there after we handed it over for their use, helping them to learn how best to use it.
They appreciated our achieving practical completion on time. It is a building with hidden complexities, requiring us to make many modifications to the original design and it tested the skills and adaptability of our team. We came through it well.
I’m proud that we delivered something that proved so quickly to be fit for purpose for such an important client.
It may not be as dramatic or on the same scale of importance as the incredible work our client does, but good construction teams also have to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. It is our ability to do this well that helps all our clients achieve what they want and need to do their jobs in the buildings that we create for them.