Dragon’s Heart temporary hospital, Cardiff, UK

Dragon’s Heart temporary hospital, Cardiff, UK


NEC was successfully used to build a 1500-bed temporary hospital at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff Wales in just eight weeks. The Dragon’s Heart Hospital was one of 19 field hospitals created to double NHS Wales’ bed capacity following declaration of the Covid-19 pandemic on 11 March 2020.  

On 3 April 2020, client Cardiff and Vale University Health Board simultaneously appointed contractor ESG Global under a £25 million NEC4 Engineering and Construction Contract (ECC) Option E (cost reimbursable contract) and Mott MacDonald as NEC project manager, lead designer and cost consultant under an NEC4 Professional Service Short Contract (PSSC). 

Work started on site the following day, the first 330 beds were available on 13 April and the full complement of 1500 beds were handed over on time and budget at the end of May. The hospital was housed in a series of modular, mechanically ventilated tent structures and each bed was serviced with medical gases and power.  

The hospital was put on standby on 8 June and decommissioned in November. The project was highly commended for the Social Infrastructure Project of the Year Award in the 2021 British Construction Industry Awards. 

Collaborative working 

Project manager Ben Hitchcock of Mott MacDonald says, ‘NEC was chosen by the Health Board as the contractual obligation to, “act in a spirit mutual trust and co-operation,” provided a strong platform for collaborative working and proactive identification and resolution of risks.’  

He says effective programme management was also a key factor for such a fast-track contract. ‘NEC contract processes provided the stimulus for regular review and updating of the programme during construction, which in turn provided the necessary transparency for identifying problems and being able to take action early to resolve them.’ 

Programme workshops were held three to four times a day, says Hitchcock. ‘These identified what deliverables needed to be achieved and by when, ensuring we were all aligned. This meant our programme was measured in hours, not days or weeks as would be typical of such a significant project. Programme control was critical on the project and NEC facilitated this requirement.’ 

He says the NEC4 ECC Option E cost reimbursable contract worked extremely well in practice. ‘The open-book contract contributed to timely decision making and provided transparency throughout the supply chain. The NEC early warning notification process also enabled rapid identification of problems and engendered a collaborative approach to their resolution. This enabled the design team to make rapid decisions and ensured the contractor was fully aware of changes so it could  react immediately on site.’ 

One-team approach 

According to Hitchcock, an NEC-inspired ‘one team’ approach quickly emerged, with all staff co-located and present every day on site − subject to comprehensive Covid guidelines on social distancing, hand sanitising and personal protective equipment.  

‘There was an intense focus on pulling together for the benefit of society, collaboratively managing time and resources. Two meetings per day were held to keep the entire team up to date. Updates were relayed using physical written programmes as well as digital copies, making them accessible to all, and a series of workstreams delivered by workstream managers kept things on track. These efforts encouraged transparency, streamlining the path to completion.’ 

He says NEC collaboration also extended to stakeholders. ‘We worked closely with Welsh Rugby Union, Cardiff Blues Rugby team and Cardiff County Council to foster a smooth delivery and minimise disruption. Communicating with nearby businesses and the local planning authority at inception also helped to achieve project buy-in, as they understood the project’s importance and the pressure to deliver.’ 

Benefits of using NEC 

  • NEC obligation to, ‘act in a spirit mutual trust and co-operation,’ provided a strong platform for collaborative working and proactive identification and resolution of risks.  
  • NEC contract processes provided the stimulus for regular review and updating of the programme on this fast-track project. 
  • NEC early warning notification process enabled rapid identification of problems and engendered a collaborative approach to resolution. 
  • Open-book approach of ECC Option E cost reimbursable contract contributed to timely decision making and provided transparency throughout the supply chain. 

  

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