Giants' Causeway on the coast of County Antrim, Northern Ireland was formed around 60 million years ago when molten magma cooled to form nearly 40,000 interlocking basalt columns up to 12m tall. It was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1986, is designated as a site of special scientific interest within an area of outstanding natural beauty, and is Northern Ireland's most popular tourist attraction. Designing and building a new visitor centre for the site was thus significant environmental challenge for client National Trust.
Basalt Stone Columns
The award winning, semi-subterranean design by Dublin architect Heneghan Peng has been described as two folds into the landscape, with facades of basalt stone columns and glass divided by a sloping grass roof. Constructed in 18 months under an NEC3 Engineering and Construction Contract (ECC) option A (priced contract with activity schedule), the 1800m2 centre provides exhibition spaces, a cafe, toilets, gift shop and parking for 200 cars.
The 186 hexagonal columns are made from volcanic basalt quarried in nearby Kilrea, from the same lava flows which formed the Giants Causeway. A carpet of grasses and wildflowers, cultivated in a field beside the centre, stretches across the roof while 4.5km of underground pipes heat the centre using geothermal energy.
ECC Ranked Top
According to Project Manager Pat Mullan of Edmond Shipway in Belfast, ECC was selected as the preferred contract following a detailed analysis of the available options. The imbedded partnering ethos and proactive management structures in relation to early warnings and risk management scored highly in the assessment process.
Mullan highlighted that ECC option A was selected as it supported the overall project procurement strategy and, based on the development of detailed designs from the client team, afforded the appropriate risk-transfer mechanisms. The project was tendered utilising a two-stage approach with the inclusion of a pre-construction period for the development of contractor-designed components and detailed development of construction methodologies for the highly complex building constructed in a live site environment.
Proactive Change Management
Mullan says "The NEC's proactive approach to managing change control was extremely successful on the project. The management and reporting of cost and programme throughout the project, in particular the early warning and risk mitigation mechanisms, provided an on-going confidence level for the client in relation to the predictability of outturn budget and time."
The work was completed on time to the day, as well as being £900,000 within budget. Within just four months of opening the centre had welcomed its 300,000th visitor.
Benefits of NEC
- Project completed on time and £900,000 within budget
- ECC provided a confidence level for the client in relation to the predictability of time and budget
- The underpinning partnering ethos of the contract supported and fostered close working relations across the client and construction teams