Powerproject is the planning force behind Mace Group’s award-winning success
Story in 30 seconds: Frank Connolly of Mace Group was crowned CIOB UK Construction Manager of the Year 2020 for an ambitious central London project he completed using Powerproject. Frank and his colleagues delivered a 12-storey block for the London School of Economics, using innovative planning techniques and collaborative workmanship to overcome logistical challenges. Powerproject enabled Frank’s team to dynamically adapt the schedule when faced with major challenges, minimising the impact on time and cost. Their sensitive, high quality approach to construction impressed the CIOB judges and delighted the customer.
To be the best in your field, your performance needs to be underpinned by market-leading technology. And UK Construction Manager of the Year, Frank Connolly of Mace Group, chooses Powerproject by Elecosoft to run his award-winning programmes. Frank clinched the 2020 Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) title for his team’s innovative work with the London School of Economics (LSE). They delivered a 12-storey block to a tight schedule and budget, despite major logistics challenges and unavoidable setbacks – an achievement made possible in part by the capabilities of Powerproject.
Pushing the boundaries with Powerproject software
Mace is an international consultancy and construction company, founded and built on exceptional people, a commitment to excellence and an entrepreneurial spirit. For the past eight years, Frank Connolly has been the company’s Operations Director, spearheading many of Mace’s most ambitious projects. And he relies on Powerproject to deliver consistently high standards.
“I joined Mace to push the boundaries, and right from the start my team has been using Powerproject,” he shares. “It’s the backbone of our delivery, from tender through to construction.”
The devil is in the detail
A flexible, adaptable approach is key to Mace’s planning capabilities.
“If you let things ‘just happen’ then you set yourself up for failure,” Frank says. “The devil is in the detail; highlighting where things are likely to go wrong and keeping close control.”
Frank and his team produce multiple timelines looking at different stages of each project, including a two-week plan for immediate logistics, and an eight-week schedule for planning further ahead.
“We like to plan projects in two directions; producing a roadmap from start to finish, and then working back through the programme to identify potential roadblocks. We always want to finish in style, and Powerproject allows us to map progress up-to-the-minute.”
Collaboration is also critical to Mace’s success. Powerproject schedules are overseen by project leads across each discipline and shared with subcontractors, to integrate external requirements with overall delivery timelines.
Driving success through daily resource mapping
For Frank’s award-winning LSE construction project, his team relied on Powerproject software to coordinate a complex set of logistics. The land-locked site could only be accessed down a single-file line, and the busy road leading up to it was an access route for three other local construction sites.
“We created a forum with the other constructors, to document high vehicle movement times and identify potential pinch points,” Frank explains. “Powerproject enabled us to map resources daily around these issues and it worked really well.” With site access a challenge, Mace decided to prefabricate around 65% of the project off-site, including the steel frame, precast planks, brise soleil, reception, café pods, and the UK’s first fully prefabricated sprinkler system. Frank and his team then used Powerproject to coordinate the delivery and installation of preconstructed materials. “Success isn’t just down to what you do on-site; it’s how you manage off-site activities as well,” Frank observes. “With Powerproject we could track all our prefabricated assets, and put resource against them.”
Continuing progress in challenging circumstances
As with any project, the LSE development faced several challenges during construction, and Powerproject enabled Mace to mitigate the impact of these issues on the overall delivery schedule. For example, part of the build coincided with LSE’s exam and graduation season, and Frank’s team did not want to interrupt such a critical time with loud construction noises.
“Planning activities hour-by-hour using Powerproject meant we could carry on working without disturbing students – for example, we introduced acoustic barriers to reduce the noise level of plant machinery,” Frank notes. “We saved more disruptive tasks for less sensitive moments.”
The team also faced a major setback when an off-site water main ruptured, flooding the building’s basement just as the slab pours got underway. As the water main served the nearby Royal Courts of Justice, it couldn’t be turned off – so Frank used Powerproject to develop an innovative solution to the flooding problem.
“While large pours are usually better, we could only continue if we focussed on containing the flood while doing smaller pours,” he advises. “With Powerproject, we could see the effect this would have on our timeline, and very quickly re-sequence our programme to keep pushing forward while maintaining waterproofing and structural integrity. In the end we only finished five days behind schedule.”
Paying attention to every single detail
Timeliness is not the only area where Powerproject is helping Mace to deliver outstanding results. The software is also supporting quality workmanship – which proved pivotal to the LSE project.
“The building we engineered for LSE had lots of exposed structures and surfaces,” Frank explains. “Everything had to be concentric and align; we couldn’t even have a screw hole 50 millimetres out of position.”
Frank and his team deployed a cutting-edge digital strategy to ensure a high-quality finish. Using data from Powerproject, they produced a virtual reality walk-through to show the customer how the end result would look, along with animated fly-throughs to help the supply chain understand their expectations.
“It was really important that we showed people the level of detail we were building to,” Frank says. “In addition to visualisation, we did a lot of mock-ups and sampling, so everyone could understand the quality of workmanship required. For this project, every piece of pipe or conduit was as important as a door handle, because the finish was in full view.”
Realising savings within the spirit of design
By combining ambition and vision with a strategic, technology-powered approach, Mace provided a masterclass in design-led value engineering for their customer. When crowning Frank as Construction Manager of the Year, the CIOB said
“his deployment of alternative methodologies, products and sequences realised savings while maintaining the spirit of the design.”
More importantly, the LSE was impressed with the end result, commissioning Mace to run the next phase of construction work off the back of this success.
“The client was delighted with the project and their Estates Director was even part of our support team throughout the CIOB Construction Manager of the Year process,” Frank adds. “Winning the next phase of work is testimony to how well things went. We had a great team, a great supply chain, and great software pulling everyone together in the right direction.”
Bringing data and visuals together at the cutting edge
With such high standards of work, Frank and his colleagues at Mace continue to raise the bar on service levels following their award-winning success. They are already looking at how to enhance scheduling by integrating Powerproject with cutting-edge visual technologies.
“Our next goal is to put cameras on-site so we can interlink planning and visualisation, verifying where we should be each day of the project with video imagery,” Frank concludes. “However we choose to innovate, Powerproject will continue to be the backbone of our delivery, underpinning all of our projects. It’s a great piece of software.”