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UK's top construction manager is a class act for award-winning science building


23rd October 2014

Inspired leadership, close collaboration and meticulous management skills have earned Lee Hutchinson MCIOB a place in history as Construction Manager of the Year 2014.

The Mace project director fought off strong competition to win the coveted title for his work on a new science building at St Paul’s School close to the River Thames in Barnes, southwest London. The project was completed on time and under budget to award-winning architectural standards despite being tendered and built at the height of the recession.

The new science block contains 18 state-of–the-art teaching laboratories, IT facilities, a careers department and new main reception. Other work carried out under Mace’s design and build contract included a 3,000 m3 rainwater drainage system, a new substation, six new championship-standard tennis courts and landscaping. The project was completed with minimal defects with an Accident Incident Rate (AIR) of zero.

Lee’s achievements are all the more impressive because of the tight restrictions within which his team had to work. The 18-month project was conducted within the confines of a live school of 2,000 pupils and staff. Deliveries could only arrive via the main school entrance and had to be tightly programmed around the school day. Critical enabling activities had to be undertaken out of sequence, squeezed into school holiday periods.

Over the course of the project, several unforeseen problems emerged that could have derailed the schedule, sending the budget rocketing. These included glitches in cladding and roofing production as well as uncertain ground conditions. Lee kept the project and costs on track through daily monitoring and adjustment of programme, introducing a range of innovations as the need arose.

He ensured that the design and build team was integrated from the outset, appointing subcontractors at a tender stage. And, having introduced £1 million of value engineering measures on joining the project, Lee collaborated closely with architects Nicholas Hare to ensure that the integrity of the original design vision was not compromised. Lee inspired his team to pay meticulous attention to detail at every stage of the build programme: piles were driven to single digit millimetre precision; brick arches were constructed on pre-manufactured flat arch formers; exposed concrete panels were cast with service routes pre-installed. He also ensured that pupils and staff remained engaged as the project progressed. All were invited to comment on mock ups and sample materials and regular site visits were arranged.

The result is a modern, future-proofed facility within a traditional cloistered design that integrates seamlessly with the rest of the campus. The science block has been widely praised for its architectural quality and has already won a Civic Trust Award.

Lee’s combination of value engineering and risk mitigation has ensured that the project has been completed for approximately £500,000 less than the original budget. At the final handover just 19 minor defects were identified. Safety standards were also exemplary, with the project team clocking up more than 500,000 RIDDOR free (accident free) hours.

Hugh Muirhead, project director at St Paul’s School said: “We always found Lee imaginative and disciplined in overcoming problems, with a refreshing openness and clarity in the way he worked with the team to keep the momentum going, always with an eye to our sensitivities and requirements. I do not recall having worked with a better project manager during 30 years of construction.” 

Chris Blythe, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Building said: “Lee is a born leader who instinctively knows how to create an atmosphere of openness and trust within teams and the wider community.

“His dedication, infectious enthusiasm and unswerving focus in the face of adversity mark him out as one of the best construction managers of his generation. He is a great ambassador for our industry and a very worthy winner.”

Lee was crowned Construction Manager of the Year in front of 95 CMYA finalists at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Mayfair on 30 October 2014.

He was selected overall champion out of 11 gold medal winners in categories ranging from small residential projects to iconic schemes worth more than £100 million.

CMYA, run by the Chartered Institute of Building, is widely regarded as one of the most rigorously judged competitions within the built environment sector. This year, a judging team of 22 senior industry professionals spent six months visiting projects and interviewing candidates. The judges collectively covered 8,000 miles as they searched for the very best talent across the length and breadth of the UK.

CIOB chief executive Chris Blythe said: “Every year CMYA provides a fascinating snapshot of best practice across UK construction. The awards are testament to the continually rising standards and professionalism of our sector.

“As usual, the bar was set very high this year, with all 95 finalists demonstrating a dedication to sustainable practices and process improvement which are at the heart of CIOB values. Congratulations to all medal winners and finalists. Your achievements bode well for the industry, as well as your individual careers.”

St Paul’s School project: textbook excellence in action:-

Safety by design: Lee reduced the size of concrete piles and  the thickness of slabs to cut down the number of crane lifts, lowering safety risk

Prefabrication: Lee specified precast arches to create the elegant cloisters at ground floor level of the science building. As well as ensuring a high quality finish, the prefabricated arches became an integral part of the construction process because they were used as permanent formwork to support the creation of the first floor slab. The use of prefabrication, compared to pouring concrete in-situ, shaved four weeks from the programme.

Sustainability: exposed finished concrete (with preinstalled services ducts) is used internally within the science building for thermal mass heating in winter and cooling storage in summer.

Waste: 98% of waste on the project was recycled

Innovation: When it was discovered that the foundations for the main building, which abutted the new block, were little more than paving slabs on compacted ground, Lee devised a resin-grout injection solution for underpinning the existing building while it was still fully occupied.

A new rainwater drainage system was created using air lance extraction and vacuum extraction equipment and techniques. The entire operation was carried out close to utilities clusters of electric and fibre optic cables as well as a 48” water main feeding a large local catchment area. Existing services remained live and in place throughout the work, and there was no disruption to the surrounding community



Saul Townsend
+44 (0) 1344 630 766

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