University Village Is a Fine Example of Good Management; Aston University's Standing as a World-Class Educational Facility Is Being Enhanced by the Creation of a New Student Village. Here, Tom Fleming Speaks to Neil Pountney, Managing Director of Emprima Ltd, Who Heads the Project Management Team, and Finds That the Scheme Is More Than Just Good News for the University
Byline: Tom Fleming; Neil Pountney
No wonder record numbers of applicants from home and abroad are trying to secure a place at Aston University, where extra places have been made available in science, technology, engineering and maths-related subjects. The research-led university is famed for its high level of academic achievement - but, following the pounds 57 million completion of the first phase of a new Student Village, its facilities are now surely even more of a magnet for attracting high calibre students from around the globe But being able to deliver the project for the start of the new university year is more than just good news for Aston. At a time when the plug has been pulled on so many other developments, this is a real boost for the regional economy - and a shot-in-the-arm for the Midland's construction sector, which, in recent recessionary times, has had to face up to some of its greatest challenges.
Not only that, but the first phase of the scheme, which provides high-quality accommodation and recreation facilities for over 1,300 students, has been completed right on time - and smack on budget. That in itself is testament to the dedication and commitment of the Carillion construction team, which has worked successfully in close co-operation with Aston University and its professional team. O'Brien Contractors Limited also successfully undertook all the ground remediation and enabling work.
This is easily said now that so much has been so successfully accomplished. Of course, it belies the skill and dedication that has gone into its achievement, for it involves bringing together so many people and organisations with a wide variety of expertise, all with differing commercial imperatives.
But Aston University and Aston Student Villages, the charitable trust formed to procure and then manage the facility for 37 years, sought and heeded the advice of veteran construction strategist Neil Pountney of Emprima, that more haste is very often less speed and far, far, more risky when achieving a predictable outcome is a very high priority.
Pountney, a former national President of the Quantity Surveying Division of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, is well known to be critical of the industry and its poor standard of customer care and respect. Renowned for being demanding of himself and all who work with him, he insists on exceptionally high standards of professionalism, commitment and integrity in customer relationships. This is particularly so with Emprima, the economic development, regeneration, planning and construction consultancy firm he created in 1998 and is his Alter ego, He said: "Clients have a right to expect integrity from us in all our dealings with them, free from our own commercial interests and that of others. As such, the time spent at the outset assisting a client to adequately develop and establish a comprehensive brief with all its stakeholders and then allowing designers sufficient time to properly develop construction drawings and to procure the work on that basis, is far more beneficial than rushing to commence construction at the earliest possible moment. The alternative is the curse of our industry for it is false economy in both time and money and the risk of lack of control when it is adopted increases dramatically".
He added: "But high professional and craft skills possessed by reputable firms should be regarded as a given; what makes the crucial difference are people with the capacity to work successfully with others, accepting full responsibility and commitment for their role for the benefit of a mutual client".
Even more of an achievement for Carillion when completing on time is the fact that they recovered from a three-month delay due to the incorporation of noncompliant structural concrete provided in error by a supplier. …