Babbage Building, University of Plymouth, UK

Babbage Building, University of Plymouth, UK

NEC has been used to refurbish and extend a major university engineering and design facility in south- west England. The University of Plymouth let the £63 million Babbage Building project to contractor Bam under an NEC4 Engineering and Construction Contract (ECC) Option A (priced contract with activity schedule) in September 2021. It was completed on time and budget in November 2023.

babbington2.jpgThe work involved stripping the original five-storey 1979 building down to its concrete frame and adding steel-frame extensions of three storeys to the north and one storey to the east. The whole 10,380 m2 structure was then clad in glass, blue ceramic panels and reflective grey brickwork.


The result is modern research and teaching facility featuring the latest specialist equipment and state-of-the-art laboratories for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics subjects. As well as significant carbon dioxide savings achieved by retaining the original concrete frame, the new thermally efficient building is heated by air-source heat pumps and powered by a photovoltaic array to minimise emissions during operation.
 
The project was procured through the Southern Construction Framework. Designers were architect Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, structural engineer WSP and services engineer Hulley & Kirkwood. NEC project manager Aecom, NEC supervisor Currie & Brown and technical advisor AtkinsRéalis completed the client team.

Collaborative environment 

University of Plymouth senior capital project manager Nick Powell says the NEC requirement for the parties to act in a ‘spirit of mutual trust and co-operation’ was vital to success. ‘It created a collaborative environment in which the client team and contractor could work together to achieve the project’s objectives’.

He says the collaborative principles set out in NEC were applied through consistent and regular interaction between the client team and contractor. ‘Specific NEC mechanisms utilised were the early warning process, compensation events and interim lessons-learnt workshops. These all helped to keep this challenging project on track for delivery on time and budget.’

The university’s vice chancellor Judith Petts says, ‘Babbage is yet another amazing building that will deliver our future success, by supporting engineering and design students as well as our leading research. It not only enhances our city centre campus, delivers a better student experience and delivers on our ambitions to reduce our university’s impact on the environment, but also continues our efforts to improve Plymouth’s built environment.’

Other NEC projects

University of Plymouth also used NEC4 ECC Option A to procure a £33 million healthcare training facility at the same time as the Babbage Building. The InterCity Place project, which involved extensive refurbishment of a 1962 11-storey tower block, was let to Kier Construction through the Southern Construction Framework. Mace was NEC project manager and Currie and Brown was NEC supervisor.

Further NEC construction projects will be let during the next 10 years as part of the university’s ongoing campus masterplan.

Benefits of using NEC

  • NEC requirement to act in a ‘spirit of mutual trust and co-operation’ created a collaborative environment in which the client and contractor could work together to achieve the project’s objectives.
  • NEC collaborative principles were applied through consistent and regular interaction between the client team and contractor.
  • NEC early warnings, compensation events and lessons-learnt workshops helped to keep the project on track for delivery on time and budget. 
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