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CMYA 2018: Neil Lock named Construction Manager of the Year


24th October 2018

Neil Lock MCIOB of Wates Construction has been awarded Construction Manager of the Year at the CIOB’s annual celebration of construction professionals. Neil’s award came as the result of his leadership on recent construction work at the V&A Museum in South Kensington, London.

Beating this year’s 63 finalists to the trophy, Neil’s achievement is all the more remarkable when you consider not only the high-profile nature of the project but the complex logistics required because of the location and the colossal nature of the finished space.

In leading on the delivery of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s new gallery, courtyard and entrance, Neil faced almost every construction-related challenge imaginable. The nomination even described some of it as “purgatory”, noting that “even the briefest consideration of the scheme quickens the pulse.”

The project included a “logistical ordeal”, with 6,000 lorry movements through a single entrance onto a major central London road. There was “groundworks horror” with a full-perimeter secant wall piled 25m deep for a 16m-deep basement gallery just two metres away from unique, priceless artefacts in a grade I-listed building. The “purgatory” came with the structural work on the largest columnless gallery in Europe, built from 40m-long single-span trusses weighing 12 tonnes apiece, not to mention an outside courtyard cafe created from 5m-wide structural glazing, curved and slotted into an existing stone facade.

All of the above, plus demolition of existing buildings and “merciless tolerances”  with just 5mm of movement allowed for an existing masonry structure, a mere metre away. Plus there were close to 1,000 change requests to process.

The nomination summed up the project as “intense, testing and time-consuming”, but noted that Neil was, in fact, exhilarated, thrilled and inspired by the whole experience, suggesting that “it was more dream project than the nightmare in the making it might suggest to mere mortals.”

CIOB President Chris Soffe said: “The CIOB’s Construction Manager of the Year Award is a significant one. We know that those in construction often stay in the sector for the duration of their career and acknowledging those at the peak of their profession is important. The skills of all the medal winners have been tested to the limit and I congratulate all of them. But this years’ winner has achieved something truly remarkable. A challenging, high-profile project, pulled off with skill, expertise and great leadership is rightly being recognised. It’s an inspiration and a great example of why people come into our industry – how many people will look at a unique building like the V & A and be able to say ‘I helped build that’.”

CIOB Chief Executive Chris Blythe OBE said: “CMYA has always been a unique barometer for management, and leadership, talent in our sector and in our 40th year it’s been no exception. We’ve had professionals working on projects of all shapes and sizes challenging for a place as a medal winner. Competition was fierce but Neil stood out for the judges with an outstanding combination of technical expertise, professionalism and brilliant communication skills.”

Gavin Heaphy MCIOB, Head Judge, Public and Infrastructure Category, commented: “As a CMYA judge, it is an honour and a privilege to spend time with some remarkable people, delivering remarkable projects. This year’s competition has been fierce to say the least. We have seen exceptional work from true construction professionals, leading teams to great heights of performance, providing clients with buildings AND outcomes beyond expectations. Neil has demonstrated these qualities in spades. Taking all the needs of the V&A London into account, keeping a world leading collection open to the public while creating truly complex engineering and a wonderful building at the same time takes enormous effort. Neil led a team with tenacity and skill to do just that. He can count himself among the best in the business with the Construction Manager of the Year Award. Well done Neil!”

John F Kane FCIOB, another of the CMYA judges, said: “Neil delivered this incredibly challenging project which wowed the judges with its complex geometries, sensitive neighbours and logistical challenges: all overcome by a committed and professional project leader who delivered with exceptional results.

The judges’ commended Neil due to his cool headed and exceptionally professional approach to managing what they described as a “once in a lifetime” project.

Neil’s character shows all of the attributes that one would wish to see when considering entrusting the safety and wellbeing of one of the world’s greatest museums to an individual. He is a true building professional, who carried his team on a journey through the process of delivering this incredible project. He has demonstrated an ability to take into account the needs of the client, the public and all the manifold stakeholders without losing sight of the “big picture” or the priorities of each.”

Neil management showed zest and skill. He didn’t just triumph over the myriad technical challenges; he also built a strong team and an excellent relationship with the client and the professional team. From the start he ensured he was close to the client and that all the contractors were behind him, and understood the key issues. He brought it all together to deliver a building that any construction manager would be proud to boast as a legacy.

The work was completed in March 2017, in 166 weeks on a contract with a final value of £38m.  

•More information about all the finalists can be found on the CMYA website: 

•Some additional background on the V&A project can be found on the Wates web site:





Elaine Cooper
+44 (0) 1344 630 744

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