A major ‘green’ headquarters building has been delivered on a brownfield site in West Yorkshire, UK using NEC. Newmarket House in Leeds, which is now the home for the city’s refuse and street cleansing services, was voted runner-up for the 2022 NEC Sustainability and Climate Resilience Contract of the Year award.
Client Leeds City Council engaged contractor Kier Construction to construct the £7.8 million new building under an NEC3 Engineering and Construction Contract (ECC) Option A (priced contract with activity schedule) in May 2021. NPS Leeds was appointed NEC project manager and supervisor, and all but the smallest subcontracts were let using back-to-back NEC3 Engineering and Construction Subcontracts (ECS). The facility was completed to the agreed revised programme and budget in April 2022.
The new building serves as base for around 130 operational vehicles and 120 front-line staff. It has enabled the council to design and operate more efficient refuse collection routes, cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 128 t/year. The building achieved a Breeam ‘excellent’ sustainability rating and features LED lighting, 50% recycled aggregate in all concrete and a 63 kW/h rooftop photovoltaic array, enabling the council to export surplus energy back to the grid.
A new 13,000 m2 hardstanding provides parking spaces for 90 refuse collection wagons and maintenance vans plus 120 staff cars. An initial 42 electric charging points were installed for refuse vehicles and all parking bays have subterranean ducts to accommodate future charging cables. The contract also included a biofuel filling station.
While the existing concreted-over site had no biodiversity, many nesting boxes were installed across the facility to attract birds and bats, and a living wall was provided on the building facade. All broken out concrete was crushed and re-used on site while reinforcement was recycled offsite.
Certainty of outcomes
Darren Dobson, senior technical manager with Leeds City Council, says NEC was selected for many reasons. ‘NEC has global recognition for being at the forefront of collaboration, project management techniques, risk allocation and management, innovation and providing certainty of outcomes. We chose ECC Option A as we considered it to be the most appropriate for the nature and value of the works and the timescales involved for delivery.’
He says in practice NEC worked exactly as intended, providing an effective foundation and legal framework for project delivery. ‘A series of documents and proformas were developed to allow the project team to track written communications in line with NEC processes, including early warning and compensation event notifications. This ensured all communications were responded to and dealt with within the contractual period for reply, or an extended period as mutually agreed between the project manager and contractor. This in turn ensured that decisions were driven and closed out efficiently and effectively.’
Dobson says workshops were held every four weeks with the project team to coincide with submissions of the revised programme by the contractor, as required by the contract. ‘These workshops were designed to allow each revised programme to be reviewed and agreed collaboratively, and to resolve any issues that might exist surrounding the practicality of the contractor’s plans, the order and timing of the works and compliance with the contract and works information prior to acceptance. Further ad-hoc workshops were arranged for any programmes that had arisen from a project manager’s instruction.’
He says the activity schedules submitted by the contractor for acceptance were reviewed in a similar manner to the programme. ‘Embracing the NEC requirement to act in a, “spirit of mutual trust and co-operation”, the project manager actively sought to identify which activities could be subdivided down to facilitate improved cashflow for both the contractor and its supply chain. This exemplary approach to collaboration and partnership working was welcomed by the whole project team.’
Tom Wilson, contracts consultant with NPS Leeds, says the project was affected by various challenges as it progressed. ‘These included the Covid-19 pandemic, the discovery of an undocumented mine shaft and other unforeseen ground conditions, a drainage redesign, inclement weather, industry-wide material shortages, increased lead times, withdrawal of products by manufacturers, non-performance by others and additional works requested by the client and key stakeholders.’
He says the project team proactively sought to manage the risks through the NEC early warning mechanism and by holding regular risk reduction meetings. ‘These NEC processes allowed the project team to develop solutions collaboratively and respond to each challenge dynamically and in a timely manner to mitigate delays. The collaborative approach ultimately resulted in the overall programme delay being mitigated down to a total of three calendar weeks on the original completion date, which is a testament to the level of engagement within the project team and supply chain under challenging circumstances.’
Wilson says quality assurance was achieved through the use of a project quality plan and the NEC supervisor having a weekly on-site presence and close liaison with the contractor’s staff. ‘Progress made in respect of the rectification of all defects formally notified by the NEC supervisor and contractor was monitored through the use of weekly Auditbricks reports, Snagmaster and regular site meetings.’
He adds that social value and community engagement delivered during project exceeded all key performance indicators set by the client. ‘It has resulted in the creation of several permanent jobs and apprenticeships within the local economy, and the project has consistently scored full marks with the Considerate Constructors Scheme.’
Benefits of using NEC
- NEC obligation on the parties to act in a ‘spirit of mutual trust and co-operation’ resulted a high level of collaboration within the project team.
- NEC requirement for regularly revised programmes provided the opportunity for four-weekly workshops to review the contractor’s plans and resolve any issues or concerns.
- NEC early warning mechanism and risk reduction meetings ensured multiple challenges to the project, including Covid-19, were mitigated down to a three-week delay on the original completion date.
- NEC compensation event process allowed for accurate cost reporting and provided the client and contractor with certainty as to the anticipated outturn cost of the project.