Currie & Brown recently spent six years at Scotland's highest civil court. However, there's no need for concern – the company was managing a major redevelopment of Parliament House in Edinburgh and the final verdict was positive in the extreme.
Parliament House is one of Scotland's most historically important buildings – as its name suggests, at one time it was home of the country's parliament. What's more, it is a busy, functioning courthouse which had to remain fully operational throughout the redevelopment process. All of this meant that the task of overseeing its refurbishment was one that needed scrupulous management.
The complete task, as outlined by the Scottish Court Service, involved upgrading the mechanical and electrical (M&E) services, repairing the fabric of the building, installing modern IT and audiovisual capability and generally making the facility fit for the 21st century - all within a budget of £63 million.
Colin Campbell, a director of Currie & Brown, was the company’s lead on the project. He said: “We were appointed to provide project management and site supervision in 2007. I was involved from appointment right through to completion in November 2013. At the job's peak we had a team of eight working full time on the project.”
The company's responsibilities included leading the pre-contract design and procurement process for each phase, managing client inputs, early warning reviews, change management, programme reviews and acceptance and contract administration.
Colin added: “The biggest challenge was making major changes to the whole building while the courts operated undisturbed. The initial brief stipulated that 12 of the building's 14 courts should be available at all times. We developed a strategy to expedite the work by creating temporary courts. During consultation the judges had a number of reservations about this approach and the client was initially sceptical of the financial viability of the plan. However, our business case set out how the time and cost gains justified the move and in the end the areas of concern to the judges were addressed and five temporary courts were set up.”
The client view
In his speech at the ceremony held on 23 June 2014 to launch an exhibition in Parliament Hall to mark the successful completion of the project, the Lord President, the Rt. Hon. Lord Gill, Chairman of the Scottish Court Service Board, stated “I congratulate our contractors Interserve Construction Limited and our project managers Currie & Brown on their achievement. Every contractor likes a clear site. We gave them the opposite - a busy site where everyday business continued as normal.” He continued, “This ambitious project has been delivered ahead of schedule and under budget. It is an outstanding example of efficient procurement in the public sector.”
The design brief developed by Scottish Court Service and Currie & Brown emphasised the need for sustainability measures to be included in the redevelopment. Meeting that goal in such a historic Grade A listed building would never be easy. However, close co-operation between the project and design teams made several features possible. Among others, a solar heating system was installed, despite initial doubts about it being approved by the planning authority on such a historic building.
Because of the need for the courts to stay operational while work went on, the original £63 million budget included a significant consideration for out-of-hours work and risk. However, the approach adopted by Currie & Brown, which involved early investigation, survey and scoping, phasing, decanting and collaborative working, meant that only a limited amount of out-of-hours work was needed. As a result, contingency expenditure was much reduced.
“This would not have been possible without our detailed understanding of the operation of the building, and close liaison with the people who use it every day,” said Colin. “In the end the project was delivered for under £58 million, with each phase delivered below budget and on the agreed programme.”
At every stage it was important to meet the needs of the building's many stakeholders, including judges, members of the Faculty of Advocates, Scottish Court Service staff, solicitors and other court users. To do so Colin developed and implemented a consultation and engagement plan, the eventual success of which was verified by independent assessors. A Gateway Review produced for the Scottish Government stated: “The review team was impressed by the degree of communication and stakeholder management that has been organised and implemented by the project management team.”
Backing this up, in a report to the Scottish Court Service, the review team leader said that it was the first time that he had carried out a review in which all 12 interviewees had expressed their satisfaction with the way the project had been managed and the outcomes achieved.
That jury of 12 had been able to witness first hand the skills of Colin and the rest of the Currie & Brown team. That expertise helped make sure that one of Scotland's most high profile and important civil redevelopment projects of recent times turned out to be anything but a trial.
Scotland's highest court
Parliament House is the home of Scotland’s supreme courts. It is also the base for all 34 of Scotland’s judges. It is a complex of six historic buildings the first of which, Parliament Hall, was built in the 1630s and was the home of the Scottish Parliament until the Act of Union in 1707. Further major additions have been made over the centuries. The building now covers 22,000 square metres over seven storeys and an estimated 250,000 people pass through its doors every year.