Nucleus (the Nuclear and Caithness Archives), UK

Nucleus (the Nuclear and Caithness Archives), UK

The extensive records of Britain’s nuclear power industry are gradually being transferred to a new NEC-procured archive building on a remote site in northern Scotland. Designed by architect Reiach and Hall, the 5,024m2 state-of-the-art repository at Wick in Caithness won the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland’s Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award in 2018.

The property division of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) let the project to Morrison Construction under a two-stage NEC3 Engineering and Construction Contract Option C (target contract with activity schedule) in March 2015. Reiach and Hall and structural designer Arup were novated to Morrison.

Value engineering

Following three months of value engineering during the design stage, construction works started in June 2015. Practical completion was achieved on time and budget in December 2016 and the building opened in February 2017. It is expected to take at least five years to transfer up to 30 million records from the UK’s 17 nuclear sites, as well as the North Highland archive previously based at Wick library.

In addition to secure archive facilities, the triangular two-storey building has a large public area, including a reading room and community space for exhibitions, study and training. Sustainability features include passive heating and ventilation, rainwater harvesting, biomass heating and low-energy lighting, resulting in the building achieving a Breeam ‘excellent’ rating.

Built on a soft blanket bog, the visually striking reinforced concrete-framed structure is clad in anodised aluminium. In 2017 it also won Public Building of the Year and the Editor's Choice of the Year at the at the inaugural Architects' Journal Architecture of the Year Awards.

Unique building

NDA uses NEC contracts to deliver most of its £3 billion a year decommissioning work at the UK’s 17 historical nuclear sites. According to NDA head of property David Atkinson, ‘As with our decommissioning programme, NEC helped to ensure we delivered this unique building on time and within budget.’

He says the flexibility of the NEC3 ECC Option C enabled early involvement of the contractor to refine the design, target price and programme. ‘The ability to accommodate two-stage procurement meant we could benefit from the contractor’s expertise during a value-engineering stage but without committing to the construction stage. In the end Morrison and the design team did a great job on both stages and we are extremely happy with the result.’

Atkinson says the NEC requirement to work in a ‘spirit of trust and co-operation’ ensured close collaboration between all members of the project team during the design and construction stages. ‘Thanks to the value engineering in the design stage there were very few changes required during the construction stage, and these were effectively and quickly dealt with through the NEC early warning and compensation event processes.’

Benefits of NEC

  • Flexibility of NEC ECC Option C target contract enabled two-stage procurement, with early contractor involvement during a value engineering design stage followed by a fast and efficient construction stage.
  • NEC requirement work in a spirit of mutual trust and co-operation ensured close collaboration between the project team during the design and construction stages.
  • NEC early warning and compensation event mechanisms ensured risks and changes were dealt with effectively and quickly, leading to completion on time and within budget.
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