Quality and safety are emphasised in Stent's radical new bonus scheme for site operatives.
Stent is trialling a new bonus system for its site operatives based on quality and safety rather than productivity. Fittingly, this radical departure from the industry norm is being tested on the new Health & Safety Executive (HSE) headquarters in Bootle, Liverpool.
Stent project manager Mal Jones says: 'The company's priorities in delivering a project are first and foremost health, safety and the environment. In order of importance, quality, efficiency and productivity follow.
'We realised, however, that our bonus scheme only related to the lower end of our objectives and we wanted to align our reward system with what is most important to us.'
This philosophy echoes that of design and build contractor Kajima, which set a target for zero accidents and dangerous occurrences on the project.
Kajima uses near miss reporting cards that can be left anonymously. This makes it the responsibility of everybody on site to report any incident that could result in an accident and mirrors one of the measures in Stent's new bonus payment structure.
Kajima project manager Richard Timmins says: 'If we can find and then get rid of, or at least greatly reduce, the number of near misses, we can eliminate major and hopefully minor accidents on the site.'
Segregated work areas are being used on the site. 'One of the main reasons people get hurt is when they wander into areas are where they shouldn't be, ' says Timmins. 'So it's natural that Stent controls who has access to the zone where piling is taking place. It means that, even as project manager, I can't go just go strolling around the site at will.'
A site meeting every morning ensures that each company is aware of what the others are doing.
Safety is clearly a very serious matter at Bootle, so it is not surprising that Timmins was 'gutted' when the cook cut her finger peeling potatoes and spoiled his chances of a zero accident record.
Early contractor involvement was another key aspect of the project. 'The early stage planning and involvement of subcontractors was very impressive, ' says Jones. 'Kajima listened and has taken our advice.'
Timmins says: 'You have to use competent contractors, people who can bring something positive to the table. A lot of ideas were bounced around in the early planning stages, when there was time to make changes.'
Kajima set up excellent site facilities, more typical of projects in mainland Europe than the UK.
The site offices, toilets and mess areas are spotless and there are good lockers, showers and a canteen. A pair of full-time cleaners ensures it all remains that way.
'It's got to be the way to go if we're going to have any success at encouraging people to come and join the industry, ' Jones says.
Timmins adds: 'We've got to treat the guys right, and offer the best conditions to get the best back.'
Foundations are comparatively straightforward. The site is big enough to allow much of the development's two basement areas to be formed within an excavation with battered slopes.
Stent is installing a temporary CFA contiguous piled retaining wall for two sections totalling 50m where the basement wall runs along the site boundary. The piles are up to 14m long and 600mm and 750mm in diameter. Typical installation is 20 piles a day.
It is also installing load-bearing piles to support the main office structures. These are generally up to 11m deep and 600mm in diameter. Peak production with this rig is about 12 piles a day.
The main geotechnical complication is that the depth to sandstone bedrock drops by 9m across the site. There was also some initial uncertainty over which sections would need piling.
So Stent carried out a trial of its Soilmec R622 CFA rig performance in the Sherwood Sandstone and found the rock to be not only less weathered than predicted but also closer to the surface over a larger part of the site.
'When we saw this we had to ask Kajima why certain areas were being piled, ' says Jones. 'Although this value engineering reduced the scope of Stent's work, it was something that needed to be raised.'
Piling is now restricted to about a third of the basement and half of the structure. Elsewhere, structural loads are carried on pads founded in the sandstone.
Stent generally used rotary piling for load-bearing piles in the basements because this allows concrete and reinforcement to be installed to just above basement cut-off level. In contrast with CFA, the piles and reinforcement have to be installed up to the ground surface and then removed as the basement is excavated, which is a tricky process.
Stent opted for CFA for some piles in the basements, where it found pockets of water in the sand and glacial till overlying the sandstone.
The project Kajima Consortium is building the Health & Safety Executive's new Merseyside headquarters under a 30year Private Finance Initiative arrangement.
The scheme will unite a number of offices in Bootle on a single site with 24,000m 2of open plan space.
Kajima Consortium comprises Kajima Partnerships as the developer, Kajima Construction Europe as design and build contractor and planning supervisor, and Honeywell/Reliance as facilities management provider.
Buro Happold is the engineering consultant.
When Kajima was awarded preferred bidder status in December 2002 it brought together a group of organisations, including Stent, which now form the core of the project delivery team.
The first move was a 'kick-off workshop' that identified 10 key performance areas such as health and safety, quality and customer satisfaction, and set key objectives in each area.
PFI is often criticised for encouraging uninspiring design, but Kajima made 'stunning design' one of its 10 key objectives at the start. The consortium believes this focus helped it win the project and Kajima and its architect Cartwright Pickard Architects have since put together a much-in-demand presentation on how to deliver quality design under PFI.
Construction started in autumn 2003 and is due for completion in May 2005.
Stent project manager Mal Jones says the company's new bonus scheme is a very big shift in philosophy and he expects some teething problems.
The safety and quality bonus is about more than not having accidents, he says. 'By incentivising operatives to report unsafe processes, we are made aware of potential accidents much sooner and can act. On the quality side, greater openness should significantly cut down non-conformances.'
It should also help remove on-site friction that can occasionally arise from production-based bonuses. With these, the targets tend to be agreed project by project and are determined by the outputs set in the tender. As a result, bonus negotiations can become divisive, particularly where sites do not achieve the tendered output, through no fault of the operatives.
'We hope that by basing the bonus criteria around quality and safety we can move away from the situation where we will be negotiating the bonus every time, ' says Jones.