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A tale of two stadiums

Analysis Stadiums, Crossrail

Arsenal's Emirates Stadium is deemed a construction success story, but at Wembley it's a different story. Why? asks Ruby Kitching.

Wembley Stadium might, just might be ready for February 2007, according to client Wembley National Stadium Limited (WNSL).

This will be 17 months, four deadlines and £183M beyond what was originally planned and a huge embarrassment for all involved on the £757M project (News last week).

It is embarrassment because these delays are reported at a time when the neighbouring £390M Emirates Stadium - which began on site at about the same time - is nished to budget and will later this month host its first Premiership match.

It is likely that the fate of each project was sealed in 2002 when both construction contracts were signed.

Both projects suffered early setbacks: Emirates had problems with land acquisition and Wembley's start date was delayed by wrangling over the inclusion of an athletics track.

Both are also fixed-price, lumpsum design and build contracts.

But at Emirates the contract included a two-stage process, allowing contractor Sir Robert McAlpine to liaise with the designer and future subcontractors to scope out the work and fix a cost.

At Wembley, contractor Multiplex signed its contract on the understanding that design was 100% complete. But it later emerged that the design for Wembley was far from ready.

This created problems within its supply chain. Details of tardy steelwork design were revealed in the court case between Multiplex and its steel subcontractor Cleveland Bridge.

But at Arsenal's new ground work beneted from extensive pre-contract discussions with suppliers and designers (NCE last week).

McAlpine was also blessed with having just one structural engineer, Buro Happold, to deal with, while Multiplex had different parts of the stadium in the hands of Mott MacDonald, SKM and Connell Wagner.

Former executive director of the Major Projects Association Martin Barnes believes that successful projects tend to be those where partnering is practised.

Although partnering was not explicit in the Emirates project, McAlpine construction manager Andrew Veness says he was able to draw on long established relationships with subcontractors before contracts were signed to ensure construction methods and costs were well dened.

Multiplex was new to the UK to the UK and, some say, put noses out of joint with its brusque Aussie management style.

Stadium designer and Wembley's director of structural design Stephen Morley believes Wembley has had a rough ride - workers going on strike, subcontractors going bust, or being sacked and replaced would take their toll on any project 'You just can't compare the two. Wembley is much more complex and what happened there is outside the normal areas of control, ' Morley says.

With a fistful of major complicated sports venues to be delivered for 2012, the Olympic Delivery Authority will no doubt be drawing its own conclusion.

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