Alumnus shares insight into landmark hospital construction project

25 April 2016

Alasdair Fernie

Alasdair Fernie

Collaborative working with a clear brief is the key to delivering a successful project in the construction industry.

That was the view of Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) alumnus Alasdair Fernie as he discussed design, construction, and the community impact of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital during an ‘In Conversation’ event at the University.

Alasdair is currently Project Director for Brookfield Multiplex and was awarded a Silver Medal at the Chartered Institute of Building’s Construction Manager of the Year Awards 2015 for delivering the construction of the new £575 million Queen Elizabeth University Hospital five weeks early and under budget. The project also received recognition from international real-estate conference MIPIM, winning the award for Best Healthcare Development last month.

The event explored how the design and construction process can lead to improved healthcare benefits for staff and patients of future projects, and identified key lessons learned from the subject project.

“The project was a massive team effort,” Alasdair said. “We also had a client who knew what they wanted to achieve and how to get there. As a result, we weren’t presented with designs that weren’t suitable or unrealistic to the budget. A hospital is very much like a small town. There is accommodation, restaurants, retail and, of course, highly specialised clinical environments. That’s why it was important that the NHS board had a very definite strategic plan as to what they wanted – and they did. The brief was perfect.

“We delivered a globally-designed building with a central Scotland force behind it. We had 96 staff at our peak with over 25 of them being GCU graduates.”

Alasdair was joined at the event by IBI Architects Project Director Neil Murphy, Brookfield Multiplex Community Engagement Officer Caron Dunlop, and NHS Director of Facilities and Capital Planning David Loudon.

Neil said: “There is evidence to suggest pleasant views, natural light, art and interaction with the outside world helps the recovery process, decreasing the amount of drugs that are given on a daily and weekly basis. The environment therefore does have a positive impact on the recovery process and for that reason we were looking to deinstitutionalise the hospital and make it a more welcoming and less foreboding type of environment.

“We’ve already heard, in terms of the children’s hospital in particular, that the distraction technology we used in the atrium in conjunction with Glasgow Science Museum, for example, has been so successful that people have gone as far as to visit the hospital with their children for a day out. It just doesn’t feel like a hospital. We’ve broken that barrier down.”

David said: “The NHS board spent a lot of time looking for different procurement options, but decided to go with NEC3, which is very much predicated on partnership working. This proved to be a huge success. All partners worked brilliantly together and walked the walk.”

Caron said: “Community engagement was very much at the forefront of the project and, as a result, has helped inform Scottish Government procurement guidelines for future projects.”

Alasdair graduated from GCU in 1997 with a BSc (Hons) in Construction Management and Engineering. Last year, he visited the University to share the story of his journey from apprentice joiner to managing one of the largest construction projects in Scotland this decade.