Willmott Dixon has won gold at the CIOB Construction Manager of the Year Awards for its complex project to construct South Wales Police Learning Centre – delivered using Powerproject planning and programme management software.
Powerproject delivered a gold standard result by:
- Integrating five separate phases of work into a single, cohesive programme
- Centrally planning and managing complex resourcing requirements across each phase
- Powerproject BIM provided visual guidance for project contractors
- Providing visibility over project changes and allowing Willmott Dixon to re-sequence works in real time
- Mitigating the impact of disruption: the Learning Centre project was completed just five weeks behind schedule, despite the global pandemic
Turning a multi-phase brief into a single plan of action
Willmott Dixon has a long-term, trusted relationship with the South Wales Police, as they have been delivering projects together for close to a decade.
In 2018, the force approached Willmott Dixon with its most ambitious project: a new £49 million South Wales Police Learning Centre in Bridgend, Wales.
The programme was briefed to Willmott Dixon’s Operations Manager, Christopher Purchase, in five phases – each presented as a separate contract:
- Demolition of existing buildings built on the site of an old power station and ammunitions factory
- Enabling works
- Construction of the four-storey learning and development centre
- Refurbishment of an existing warehouse and construction of new two-storey physical training centre
- External highway alterations to create new access roads to the site
Powerproject planning and programme management software enabled Chris to integrate each phase into a cohesive plan of action.
“We received each phase of the project piecemeal; nothing flowed. But the logistics needed to sync, especially as we were building on an operational police campus. Our supply chain doesn’t have infinite resources, so we used Powerproject to amalgamate each phase and ensure we could meet South Wales Police’s deadline.”
Christopher Purchase, Construction Manager, Willmott Dixon
Using programme visibility to overcome initial challenges
Powerproject was instrumental in facilitating the South Wales Police Learning Centre project. Initially, Chris used the software to manage pre-construction communications and stack programme resourcing.
“Right from the tender, I used Powerproject to create a resource curve, so I knew exactly what we needed. It’s a very informative piece of software. South Wales Police Learning Centre is the most complicated programme we’ve ever delivered through Powerproject: one phase alone had over 700 bars.”
Preparations proved complex, as Chris and his team were working on a brownfield site with pockets of contaminated land. Rather than removing 18,000 tonnes of contaminated subsoil or capping and covering the contaminated pockets with a geomembrane, Willmott Dixon suggested a more sustainable approach: planting shrubs and trees on the land and recertifying it as a nature conservation site (SINC). This ambitious planting plan was integrated into wider programme activities through Powerproject.
The team encountered further challenges to the enabling works on a daily basis. For example, unmapped high-pressure water and electricity mains ran underneath the site, serving the nearby town of Bridgend.
“Visibility is a key benefit to using Powerproject. If we stopped one activity, we could instantaneously see which other activities would be affected. We could also see the impact of early changes on the other project phases, which helped us with resourcing further down the line.”
Excavation works also revealed limestone cavitation, which Willmott Dixon excavated and crushed, backfilling the void, which enabled a traditional foundation solution to be adopted rather than extensive piling next to existing high-pressure water mains. This decision saved South Wales Police circa £750,000 and advanced the construction phase start date by two months.
Working closely with contractors to plan accurate timelines
In the construction phase, Chris used Powerproject BIM to plan and phase techniques and brief his contractors. He began by programming the Learning Centre’s concrete frame, transposing International Foundation Class (IFC) models into the BIM software.
“I like to walk through each project phase with our supply chain, and Powerproject comes into its own here. I’ve used the BIM tool for planning and phasing several jobs; it’s a visual way to show everybody what’s happening, which I find very helpful.”
Through Powerproject, Willmott Dixon could accommodate contractor estimates to accurately plan how long each element would take. In addition to creating reliable timelines, Chris noted these estimates in Powerproject for future reference. This data proved extremely useful when the pandemic hit, and he needed to re-sequence the entire programme.
“Powerproject enables us to track and amend programmes, update sequences, and justify why we allow a certain time for each activity. It’s very useful when we need to advise customers on changes to the programme and how this could impact delivery.”
Comparing progress with the project’s critical path
Strong communications with customers and the supply chain are central to Willmott Dixon’s ethos. The team met with contractors weekly during the South Wales Police Learning Centre project, using a live data snapshot from Powerproject to track the critical path and make real-time decisions.
“Things changed rapidly, but with Powerproject, we could show everyone exactly where we were. Rather than blinding people with numbers, Powerproject allowed us to break out sections for different trades and to track progress against the baseline. We could see exactly where things had been brought forward and where they’d been pushed back.”
While Chris used the master programme to maintain a high-level view, he encouraged the project’s package managers to extract their own short-term programmes, monitoring output and resourcing and making changes in Powerproject if necessary.
The team could also provide a graphical representation of their progress to South Wales Police so they understood the impact of both pandemic and site challenges on programme timelines.
As a result of this attention to detail, Willmott Dixon delivered the Police Learning Centre project in 208 weeks – just five weeks behind the original schedule.
Planning ambitious future collaborations
Willmott Dixon’s innovative thinking and responsive planning earned South Wales Police Learning Centre industry recognition: Christopher Purchase won gold in the Higher Education category at the 2022 CIOB Construction Manager of the Year Awards.
The project has also enhanced Willmott Dixon’s working relationship with South Wales Police, deepening the trust between the two organisations. Chris is already discussing a new large-scale project with the force – and Powerproject will play an integral role in delivering this and other future construction programmes.
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