NEC Users Group member the Environment Agency has successfully procured a major fluvial flood protection project in England’s West Midlands using NEC. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic and extensive flooding from Storm Dennis, the £20 million Burton on Trent flood risk management scheme in Staffordshire was delivered on time and budget by a joint venture of Galliford Try and Black and Veatch (now Binnies) in March 2021.
The Environment Agency let the main design and build contract in October 2018 through its NEC-based 2013-2019 water and environment management (WEM) framework using an NEC3 Engineering and Construction Contract (ECC) Option C (target cost with activity schedule). NEC project manager and cost consultant Turner and Townsend, NEC supervisor Arcadis and ecological and landscape clerks of works Aecom were each engaged under an NEC3 Professional Services Contract (PSC).
The work involved increasing the level of flood protection to over 4500 homes and 1000 businesses in Burton on Trent by upgrading 3.7km of the existing 1930s& defences along the River Trent with reinforced walls, sheet piling and clay-core embankments. There were also significant upgrades to a pumping station and culvert, plus access and cycle improvements, green area landscaping and public realm refurbishments.
The project has provided the town with a consistent 1-in-200 year level of protection, with the upgraded defences designed to last 100 years. It was highly commended for the Upgrade and Renewal Project of the Year in the 2021 British Construction Industry Awards.
Environment Agency project manager Danni Haden says NEC is the organisation’s preferred contract suite for procurement frameworks. ‘The NEC suite of contracts offers a flexible approach to contract management and allows risk sharing between the employer and contractor that is focused on the programme and deals with risk in real time. This encourages a more collaborative approach between the employer and the contractor, backed by clear clauses on how to behave that are based on mutual respect and understanding.’
She says the main ECC contract worked very well in practice. ‘It truly encouraged a very collaborative approach to project delivery. The contract enabled the project team to focus on delivery by ensuring prompt resolution of potential issues through the NEC early warning process and weekly risk reduction meetings, with risk mitigation proactively managed by the organisation best-placed to manage it. There were also clear routes for escalation, and both the contractor and employer felt comfortable that the contract was facilitated by an impartial and objective NEC project manager.’
Haden says the ECC Option C target price contract provided a strong incentive to deliver on programme. ‘Following the NEC compensation event process to adjust the target cost provided a clear and transparent way of staying on top of budgets and the pain/gain share. The contract also allowed flexibility to the design, which facilitated a positive approach to change as it could be incorporated easily into a collaborative and positive project team.’
She says the PSC contracts also worked well. ‘The PSC option E time-based contracts offered sufficient flexibility for the supervisor and clerk of works roles as the workload varied depending on the construction programme, and cost control was not considered a risk. The PSC option C target contract used for the project manager and cost consultant provided good value for money but required greater contract administration, as compensation events were required when there were periods of more project managers instructions and risk reduction meetings than had been allowed for in the scope of works.
Overall the NEC contract suite provided transparent and flexible procurement mechanism for all the roles and functions needed to deliver the Burton Flood risk management scheme on time and to budget.
Haden says NEC’s obligation to act in a, ‘spirit of mutual trust and co-operation’ extended both throughout the project team and to the wider community. ‘Collaborative working and stakeholder engagement was critical to the success of this project, enabling the project to incorporate the needs of the local community, businesses and other interest groups from the outset. This included local schools, golf clubs, allotment associations, libraries, leisure centres, a mobile home park, breweries and local developers. Key transport organisations such as Network Rail were also engaged early on to enable advance delivery of works alongside the mainline and freight railways.’
She says the strong and positive working environment created by senior project leaders also encouraged the project team to approach challenges pragmatically. ‘For example, the Don Amott mobile home park site was constrained by the river and the close spacing of the mobile homes. The project team adopted a Giken Supercrush piling rig which, although relatively expensive, enabled safe construction of the flood defences without needing to relocate the residents.’
Haden adds that the project team incorporated graduate trainees and cross-organisation secondments, enabling the client, designer and contractor to share skills, knowledge and experience.
Benefits of usuing NEC
- NEC contract suite provided a transparent and flexible procurement mechanism for all roles and functions needed to deliver this vital flood risk management scheme on time and to budget.
- NEC obligation to act in a, ‘spirit of mutual trust and co-operation’ resulted in strong collaboration within the project team as well as in relationships with the local community and other stakeholders.
- NEC enabled real-time risk sharing between the employer and contractor, with risk mitigation proactively managed by the organisation best-placed to manage it.
- NEC early warning process and weekly risk reduction meetings ensured prompt resolution of potential issues, enabling the project team to focus on delivery.
- NEC compensation event process and regularly updated programmes provided a clear and transparent way of staying on top of budgets, pain/gain share and progress.