London 2012: Inside Team Construction
Four construction professionals who were involved in the Olympic structures give their views on the secrets to its success
“Everything worked like clockwork”
Kevin McLoughlin is founder of Islington-based K&M Decorating. His firm worked on decorating buildings across the park, including the Aquatics Centre, Media Centre and Water Polo Arena, working for Balfour Beatty, Mansell, Byrne Brothers and Carillion. In the ODA/CIOB awards last year, celebrating excellence on the site, he was awarded the CIOB Chairman’s Medal.
In 40 years in the industry I’ve not worked on any jobs which have been run as efficiently and effectively as the Olympics. Everything worked like clockwork. Usually you’re waiting for the plasterers to finish, but everything was done to time. The facilities were absolutely second to none.
Everything was done to the very best standard and we were encouraged to go that extra mile. Usually working in the construction industry is about QSs driving down costs. But everyone wanted to get the job done on time and to budget and we were paid a fair price.
The reason I got so much work is that I ticked a lot of the boxes. I’ve always invested in an extensive apprenticeship training programme and I had 22 apprentices on the Olympics. I’m local to the area, and all of my workforce is PAYE. Women make up 20% of our workforce. The ODA encouraged the employment of women, I’ve never been encouraged to employ women before and when it comes to PAYE, it’s a question I don’t normally get asked.
My view is that the Olympics have been so successful because all the main contractors have been pulled into line by CLM — they had to deliver what they said they would deliver.
I hope it will have a lasting impact on the industry, I’ll certainly be taking many of the procedures with me to do with cleaning, waste disposal, noise and the type of products used, which included low VOC (volatile organic compound) paint. We’re using these at the Brazilian Embassy, where we’re working with Balfour Beatty, and also now on a number of BSF jobs.
We work for a whole range of contractors operating sites from the very good to the barely lawful. One major effect is that where perhaps the site conditions aren’t as good as they should be, my guys have already piped up and said we can’t work like that. They now recognise excellence in health and safety and in management.
“There was definitely a culture of everyone being in this together”
Stewart Hartley MCIOB was the senior construction manager at ISG in charge of construction on the £67m contract to build the Stirling Prize-shortlisted Velodrome. He was also in charge of construction of the BMX track, a contract worth £1.5m. He has also been overseeing the construction management of £250m worth of overlay work by ISG across Olympic venues for LOCOG and is now seconded to LOCOG during the Games as part of the venue management team.
The Velodrome was a fantastic project to be involved with. It is one of the most sustainable venues in the Olympic Park and one of the most technically innovative. We worked hard with the designers to come up with the cable net solution for the roof. It is highly complex, but makes the structure very lightweight, which means we saved both in the amount of steel we needed and on the foundations, which has helped the structure be more sustainable.
The Olympic Park was quite a different place to work. It was quite unusual having an intermediary company in the form of CLM, which brought a commonality to the site. Everything we did got audited. There was definitely a culture of everyone being in this together and we were encouraged to be more cooperative with other contractors rather than competing. The Safety Health and Environment meetings got everyone in the right mindset.
We wanted to make it as good a place as possible for the workforce to come to. We had a nice canteen with TVs and pictures of what it was we were building.
I definitely think the project will leave a legacy for construction. Both in terms of the training for the workforce, which will change behaviours, and the lessons learnt by contractors. We will be taking forward techniques and processes we advanced on the Velodrome in ISG. One was rewarding people with free breakfasts for reporting near misses.
We also bought software which allowed us to text workers to remind them about health and safety. It was a great little tool.
The Velodrome is one of the most sustainable buildings on the Park
“There was relentless attention to detail”
Mark Dickinson is managing director of development at Lend Lease and the third project director on the Athletes’ Village where Lend Lease fulfilled development, project and construction management roles. The Village delivered nearly 3,000 new homes (housing 17,000 athletes in Games mode), a new academy and health centre plus landscaping and wetlands.
Delivery on the Athletes’ Village was intense and on a huge scale, success was dependent upon relentless attention to detail.
As well as being a beacon for safety, our site trained and employed over 4,000 local people in three years and met ambitious sustainability targets. The Village was the first development anywhere near this scale to build to level four of the Code for Sustainable Homes. We achieved this through making improvements to the fabric rather than using micro-renewables which can be unreliable.
All of the timber used was responsibly sourced, it’s the largest project in the world to have used 100% FSC-certified material.
We pioneered the use of natural gas generators to power the site, which alone saved 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. And by building a rail line into the site and delivering materials by barge 30,000 truck trips were saved, which also reduced our carbon footprint.
A range of products were developed that will go down the supply chain, for example low energy LED bulbs we developed with Phillips, which are now available to the broader industry.
We plan to go even further on our redevelopment of the Heygate Estate at Elephant & Castle, where 2,500 new homes are being built over the next decade. Like the Athletes’ Village it will have a big focus on sustainability, being one of the 18 Clinton Climate Initiative founding projects, and includes one of the largest new parks to be built in London in 70 years.
“Health, not just safety, was a big thing”
Carillion’s Kenny Ryan was responsible for the construction of the Media Centre, first as head of construction, before becoming project director for the last six to eight months of the £260m contract. He was also responsible for the Main Press Conference Room where briefings and interviews take place, and the three-storey £15m temporary facility catering for 60,000 meals a day.
It was an exhilarating and demanding programme working on the project, but we were fortunate that we had the best people — everyone wanted to work on the Olympics. There were three main elements to the project: the two-storey International Broadcast Centre (IBC); the four-storey Main Press Centre with basement; and the multi-storey car park on four levels, all built with a variety of different structural techniques, including large elements of offsite pre-fabrication.
The IBC will broadcast to 4 billion people during the Games so it had to have in-built resilience, which means the M&E services were critical.
Right from the outset CLM got contractors across the park meeting and working in a collaborative way and we regularly met other contractors from across the Olympic Park. There was a real ethos of everyone challenging themselves and not accepting the norm. We were tasked with achieving 108 apprentice placements and we achieved 121.
Health, not just safety, was a big thing. There was lots of monitoring of occupational health and I think this is a message that can apply to projects of any size — people need to look after themselves.
Sustainability was a key driver and the buildings achieved BREEAM and CEEQUAL targets. We will be taking away new ideas, many of which are quite simple that we can roll out across the company. One was to use remote control safety lighting to identify which staircases were open and safe to access and which weren’t to help navigation around the site. We are in the process of writing a report on lessons we can learn from the Olympics for Carillion.
I’d definitely say construction is in a lot better place for being involved with the Olympics. It has raised the bar.
Carillion’s Kenny Ryan worked on the Media Centre