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It's good to talk

Project 83; Calderdale PFI; Upgrading a large working hospital forces both sides to talk to each other - all the time. David Hayward reports from Halifax

The project

The £76M, PFI Calderdale scheme involves a conversion on the existing site of the Victorian built Halifax general hospital into a double size, 600 bed modern complex. Half the old hospital is being demolished and replaced, the other half refurbished. The concrete frame is nearly complete and topping out is due this month. The three year contract should finish by December 2000 to be followed by a 30 year service and maintenance period (NCE Concrete supplement October).

By the time the building work is done construction workers on the site in West Yorkshire should know how to wash their hands - correctly and thoroughly. They are painstakingly taught the most efficient technique as part of an initiation course given by the client's health experts to the entire 300 strong team.

Aim of the tutorial is to avoid the spread of 100 year old dormant bugs that could lurk in wards and walls being demolished to make way for the hospital's bed extension. To allow the infirmary to be doubled in size, demolition, new build, refurbishment and - most crucially - patients must all share more or less the same site.

And such congenial crowding leaves the project's main players, client Calderdale Health Trust and contractor Bovis, with little choice but to embrace some of Egan's key buzzwords. These are not the headline four Ps promoted in the report of project implementation, product development, production of components and partnering, but the two Is - Integration and Interface.

'A hospital is a stressful place at the best of times and the nature of this job demands a team approach from the start,' says the client's redevelopment officer Rob Holt. 'We both had to learn and appreciate very quickly the totally different way each other operated.'

The key facts to remember are: Patients are sick and hospital consultants are 'very important'; to provide new or refurbished facilities for both in a working hospital, needs near daily meetings between health and construction staff; you need to be flexible enough to immediately decant patients, already threatening to discharge themselves, when piling work outside their ward becomes intolerable. And most of all, patients, and consultants cannot be treated like building materials - no double handling.

'We do genuinely try to solve each others problems,' says Howard Jeffrey, Bovis Facilities Management's project manager, and the engineer on whose desk the integrate and interface initiatives come to rest. It is this facilities management arm of Bovis that ensures old and new buildings merge before taking on responsibility to maintain the lot for the next 30 years.

Jeffrey is one of the site's champions. This means he is responsible for implementing all the Egan related objectives and achievements which centre around 'delivery of design'. He has four nominated 'circle members' to share the load with, while other champions head up 'Egan circle' groups being equally innovative with productivity, benchmarking, information technology, plus safety and environment.

Jeffrey is a natural champion, and shares the Egan philosophy. 'In the past there has been mountains of talk but no real substance behind the initiatives' he reflects. 'But this project has all the right ingredients - PFI, whole life maintenance, value engineering, an integrated site, plus service to the client from day one, and there is a critical mass of understanding available to feed into other projects.'

The provision of hospital doors - all 2,500 of them - epitomises the teamwork approach . A dozen people, each from a different organisation, from client to installer, spent a day thrashing out what was needed. The supply team just had 'to talk to the customer' - client and patient - to know the precise pressure to make the doors' spring loading or to know that handles are OK, but knobs are not.

Bathroom design needed even more experts, more meetings, more customer surveys. 'This is the first time anyone seems to have designed a hospital bathroom from scratch,' claims BFM's operations manager Neal Jarman. 'It took us five months to design the most user friendly shower heads, a flat no-lip bottom tray that did not leak, and the most efficient turning circle for a bath hoist.'

Day long workshops, surveys of 500 nurses and even research by a local university have ended up as a couple of bathroom mockups in the now near complete hospital shell. And the final blueprint will be reproduced 250 times.

'We are not bothered about sharing our ideas with others as Egan has created the culture where this type of openness is right ' says Bovis Construction's project executive Phil Lovell. 'Our ultimate goal is to give the client what he wants.'

The team

Calderdale National Health Service Trust; Catalyst - consortium of Bovis Construction (main contractor); Bovis Facilities Management (20 Year maintenance operator), RCO (services company); Oscar Faber; RTKL; ABB; Sulzer; Otis Lifts

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