The Wave, Bristol, UK

The Wave, Bristol, UK
  • location:
    Washingpool Farm, Easter Compton, Bristol, UK
  • Value:
    £25 million
  • Contracts Used:

    ECC Option A

  • Start-Finish:
  • Employer:
    The Wave Group
  • Contractor:
    Andrew Scott
  • Project Manager:
    Ward Williams Associates

By Simon Fullalove

NEC has been successfully used to deliver England’s first artificial surfing lake. Opened in November 2019, The Wave near Bristol is a 200 m wide by 180 m long freshwater lagoon. Its Wavegarden Cove technology can generate 1,000 waves per hour from 0.5 m to 2 m in height.

Client The Wave Group appointed Ward Williams Associates as project manager for the £23 million scheme together with architect APG and consulting engineer Hydrock. The main works contract was let to local contractor Andrew Scott in October 2018 under and NEC3 Engineering and Construction Contract Option A (priced contract with activity schedule).

The scheme included excavating and reusing over 76,000 m3 of earth to create the 20,000 m3 diamond-shaped lagoon. A 4 mm geo-composite was laid to relieve groundwater uplift pressure, after which 263 individually designed fibre-reinforced concrete slabs were cast in situ to provide the required bathymetry. The wave-generator from Wavegarden in Spain, which consists of 40 paddles on an electrically driven rack-and-pinion system, is contained within a central 100 m long reinforced concrete pier. The works included a 1000 m2 timber-frame clubhouse fitted with solar thermal panels, plus the planting of 16,000 new trees.

The Wave successfully opened on schedule and within budget in November 2019 and, despite subsequent Covid-19 restrictions, has proved very popular. It won the Cultural and Leisure Project of the Year in the 2020 British Construction Industry Awards.


According to The Wave’s founder Nick Hounsfield, ‘To deliver a scheme acceptable to the funders, a ‘one team’ ethic was essential to collaboratively challenge every design and cost decision. Our project manager Ward Williams Associates led a programme that allowed for overlapping enabling works and main works packages, installation of the Wavegarden technology during the main contract works and a soft opening and testing phase prior to completion.’

Ward Williams Associates associate partner James Hannaford says NEC was the natural choice of main contract for procuring such a pioneering, collaborative development. ‘The innovative nature of the project meant there was a relatively high amount of change likely during construction. NEC was therefore chosen for its very proactive approach to the management of change as well as for its highly collaborative approach to delivering the works.’

He said it was particularly useful to have prescribed timescales and methods for assessing change defined within the contract. ‘NEC’s unique mechanisms for risk management and change control were all actively and beneficially used, including early warnings, risk management meetings, project manager instructions and compensation events. The activity schedule was also used effectively for the monthly valuations, supported by document management and contract control software.’

Overall he says the NEC obligation for the parties to act in a ‘spirit of mutual trust and co-operation’ proved to be particularly effective in underlining the collaborative philosophy of the project, helping to ensure it was successfully delivered on time and within budget.

Benefits of using nec

  • NEC’s obligation for the parties to act in a ‘spirit of mutual trust and co-operation’ supported the project’s collaborative philosophy, helping to ensure it was delivered on time and within budget.
  • NEC’s proactive approach to managing change within prescribed timescales was ideally suited to delivering what was an unprecedented and innovative scheme.
  • NEC’s unique mechanisms of early warnings, risk management meetings, project manager instructions and compensation events were all actively and beneficially used.
  • NEC’ activity schedule proved effective for monthly valuations, supported by document management and contract control software.

Further Information

Contact: Abby Richardson, Wavemaker - Media Team, The Wave, Bristol, UK
Tel: +44 333 016 4133

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