Construction Manager of the Year Awards 2019 - Refurbishment & Fit Out

20 September 2019

Sir Robert McAlpine’s retail refurbishment at The Plaza, Oxford Street, London

CMYA 2019 Winner: Joseph McNeil MCIOB - Sir Robert McAlpine

Sir Robert McAlpine’s Joseph McNeil is Construction Manager of the Year for 2019, in his first project manager role, after turning around a high-profile shopping development in London’s West End. It means a double celebration for the famous old company, which is also celebrating its 150th birthday. CM reports.

Project: 120 Oxford Street, London
Structural reconfiguration and refurbishment of part-occupied five-storey building
82 weeks
JCT 2011, with CDP

Sir Robert McAlpine marks its 150th anniversary by taking the coveted Construction Manager of the Year award for 2019 – after its project manager on a London shopping centre, in his first major role, successfully delivered a scheme which the company hadn’t been expecting to build.

The contractor’s original bid for The Plaza, a retail refurbishment on Oxford Street, was passed over in favour of a rival who had priced more keenly. But after the rival went into administration, just two weeks after starting on site, McAlpine was offered the job instead.

Joseph McNeil took on his first role as project manager without any prior knowledge of the scheme. With the lower three storeys of the building vacated, the hoardings up and the client keen to get the works restarted as fast as possible, he mobilised his team and got the early works packages moving.

McNeil challenged the demolition methodology – in a building that had sensitive neighbours as well as remaining tenants – of diamond saw cutting without percussive breaking. His proposal to use hydraulic crunching instead achieved substantial programme and cost benefits, as well as low levels of noise, and allowed a contract agreement to be finalised.

The accelerated programme allowed earlier tenant occupation Below: The power supplies were reconfigured to feed the new retail units

Another early challenge was managing an incoming tenant’s requirements, which conflicted with the specification for the screeding. McNeil’s proposal of a mix of repair works, levelling compounds and new screeds – backed up by independent consultant’s testing of which existing screeds could be retained – represented a significant saving on the tenant’s original request for the removal and replacement of all existing screeds. It also accelerated the programme, allowing for earlier unit completion and tenant occupation.

Working with his supply chain, McNeil was able to offer improvements on the design team’s proposals. The most significant was for the reconfiguration of the building’s main power supplies to feed the new retail units: by reusing some elements of the existing low-voltage infrastructure (switchboards, isolators and cable runs), he reduced the scope of the new works and saved costs.

The direct benefit the power solution brought the client fostered a relationship of trust and was one of the drivers for the extensive contract growth (over £3m in variations). Combined with defect and snag-free delivery on time and on budget, it has also resulted in McNeil’s appointment as leader of a team to deliver further opportunities for the client.

SILVER: Graham Leigh MCIOB - Construction manager, Willmott Dixon

Silver winner: Bolton Central Library Museum

Project: Bolton Central Library Museum
Upgrade of roof and creation of new exhibition spaces
60 weeks
Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council
NEC option A

Not many construction managers get the chance to install an exact replica of a 3,500-year-old pharaoh’s tomb. But that was just one of Graham Leigh’s technical feats on this museum refurbishment that went so well that the client granted this local boy the accolade of hanging his portrait permanently in its gallery of Bolton legends, alongside boxer Amir Khan and footballer Nat Lofthouse.

Other finalists

Rob Brown MCIOB, Willmott Dixon Interiors, Imperial College Library Building, London
Joe Hacke, Rise Management Consulting, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Ronan McGrath MCIOB, mac-group, River House, Belfast
Alex Mastroddi, ISG Construction, Moss Side Leisure Centre and Library, Manchester
Philip O’Brien MCIOB, Willmott Dixon Interiors, Twickenham East Stand Development
David Packham MCIOB, BAM Construct UK, Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross

On a 1930s building with a leaky roof, his value engineering included reducing spend on air-handling units by creating thermal models to identify where existing units could be left in place and where new ones needed to be installed.

Another major saving was on the roof, where 326 glass skylight panels had numerous cracks where water seeped through. Realising some panels had been deliberately blocked as some rooms below needed to be dark store spaces, Leigh fitted slates over these areas, keeping the project within budget while pleasing the planners.

For the pharaoh, Leigh hung the 3.5m replica from a suspended ceiling using structural wires, following extensive weight and deflection testing to ensure the ceiling was not overloaded.

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