Felixstowe Seafront Gardens is a 1 km long public park in the seaside resort of Felixstowe in Suffolk, UK. Created over 100 years ago, the beautifully landscaped and sumptuously planted grade II registered park has recently been extensively restored by Suffolk Coastal District Council as part of a town-wide regeneration programme.
The award-winning £4.8 million landscaping project was the first in the UK to be procured primarily through NEC contracts. The council commissioned Mott MacDonald to provide a full design service via an NEC3 Professional Services Contract (PSC) option A (priced contract with activity schedule), while the works were carried out by J Breheny Contractors Ltd under an NEC3 Engineering and Construction Contract (ECC) option A.
The project was led by designer’s landscape architecture team and included civil, mechanical and electrical engineering, architecture, ecology and safety aspects. The team also prepared and help to manage the ECC, acting as NEC supervisor in support of the client project manager during construction.
In addition to extensive replanting and hard and soft landscaping, the project included renovation of two pedestrian shelters and construction of a new one. Work started on site in October 2013 and was completed in December 2015.
Clarity of Works Information
The use of ECC option A meant the contractor took the risk of estimating the quantities required by the works information. According to Mott MacDonald principal landscape architect Jonathan Ramsay, ‘This required the landscape design team to refine every aspect of the works information to minimise the changes required during the contact. This was a healthy process for any designer to test the clarity of their work prior to tender.’
In the course of the project there were over 50 compensation events but these were actively managed during construction. The project won a regeneration award from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) East of England branch and a craftsmanship award from the Royal Institute of British Architects Suffolk branch.
According to RICS, ‘The grade II listed park had fallen into disrepair and the project, which was granted match funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, has restored the gardens to their former glory, whilst retaining its original Victorian charm. The result is an attractive, accessible and much needed community area enjoyed by visitors and residents of all ages and mobility.’
Empowering Landscape Designers
Ramsay says professional landscape design services in the UK are typically procured under the Landscape Institute’s Appointments or through a JCT form of agreement. ‘This project was the first time the majority of the team were appointed through an NEC contract.
‘Many landscape architectural consultants are sole traders or small practices operating as sub-consultants, inputting small pieces of work under other consultants’ management. This has tended to limit the development of project management expertise within the landscape architecture profession. In addition, landscape operations – especially planting – are characterised by being a little imprecise and influenced by fluctuating natural processes.
‘Not only did NEC provide a much-needed structure to define and manage the landscape work, the landscape design team found the PSC and ECC very clear to operate, empowering them to take a leading role. The PSC encouraged them to carry out active management of the work and programme, and in particular helped them to recognise the need for clarity in the ECC works information.
‘While administration of the contract was initially viewed as an added burden by the team, by the end of project they could observe demonstrable ways in which it was an advantage for landscape design and for all those involved. It was concluded NEC is ideally suited to landscape design.’
Benefits of Using NEC
- NEC provides a much-need structure to define and manage the otherwise slightly ‘messy’ nature of landscape projects
- PSC and ECC are very clear to operate, empowering the landscape team to take a leading role throughout delivery
- PSC encourages the landscape design team to carry out active management of the works and ensure clarity of works information in ECC for landscape contractor