GIRI principles in action on Heathrow project

27 May 22

Key GIRI principles that aim to reduce error have been applied at every stage of Heathrow’s Cargo Tunnel 2.0 project, contributing to reduced costs, less waste, and cutting 12 months off the projected build programme, senior project manager Ajoy Dua told GIRI’s summer members’ meeting.

The cargo tunnel is an 870m-long, critical subsurface link between Heathrow’s central terminal area and Terminal 4. It was built in the 1960s and had a partial refurbishment in the 1990s. The current scheme involves a major overhaul to replace multiple systems, from ventilation to lighting, and retrofitting of a fixed fire suppression system. Work can only take place between 9pm and 5am and the tunnel has to be returned to full service every morning. 

According to Ajoy, the GIRI principles, including a focus on collaboration, early-stage investment and planning, and team culture have set the basis for the process. They are core to a three-part strategy focusing on digital transformation, collaboration, and the off-site build approach that aims to reduce risk, deliver the project safely, provide value for money, minimise operational impact, and optimise the programme. 

The current project is the second iteration of the scheme, planning having started from scratch again in 2018 after the first was terminated. Despite the Covid shutdown, work started on site as planned in January 2022.

“At the time the project came back to design, a number of publications influenced our thinking,” said Ajoy. These included reports from McKinsey around digitisation and productivity, and GIRI’s Guide to improving value by reducing design error, all of which fed into how the project was set up.

The latter included the need for a clearly defined intent with a focus on outcomes at the start. “This aligns with the Project 13 pillar around the ‘capable owner’ concept. So we began with a consultant-led requirements catch process and brought Atkins in to run workshops and define the requirements and outcomes from investment.”

The project methodically captured different stakeholder requirements, all of which were mapped to outcomes, benefits, and Heathrow’s strategic intent. The process was influenced by GIRI’s messages on the importance of the briefing process and defining client expectations. “It took five months to get this nailed down,” Ajoy recalled. “When we started there were 87 requirements, 58 of which were ‘musts’. After the consolidation exercise, we were down to 39 requirements, and 23 ‘musts’. The process helped us understand what the business wanted to invest in, and enabled testing, prioritisation, and management of the project scope.”

Another key GIRI concept is increased investment in design to reduce error. “This is really important,” said Ajoy. “When you start the project, you have the most influence on project costs, but you are spending the least. It was central to our strategy to invest more at the beginning. The design process takes longer and costs more than a traditional approach, but this is offset by a reduction in error and outturn cost.” 

The project also took on board principles around planning and stakeholder management – “we made sure we had signatures all the way through” – and early contractor engagement. The team brought in anyone who had knowledge of the tunnel previously and selected specialist firms on a ‘best athlete’ approach, including Mace as designated contractor and Bryden Wood for its expertise in off-site construction.

A DfMA approach was identified as a key opportunity to improve build efficiency and productivity and Ajoy showed examples of several of the new tunnel systems designed for modular offsite manufacture, saving time, and improving quality.

The Enterprise Delivery Model has been applied on this project, and it was the first to adopt the Heathrow Common Data Environment. “We used it to establish key documents, goals and workflows and tested it all ahead of the new capital plan that hits this year,” Ajoy explained.

Cargo Tunnel 2.0 is also focused on digital transformation through the use of digital tools. These include laser scanning to validate existing conditions and minimise design and installation errors, federated 3D BIM models, 4D digital rehearsals, and clash detection to identify issues that needed to be resolved before the project got to site.

Finally, diversity and inclusion principles were incorporated at various stages of the design to cater for impaired mobility, vision and hearing and cognitive difficulty.

The project is now at the start of the build stage with a full set of requirements, a signed-off design, and all concessions agreed, minimising the need for further contract changes. 

“We have achieved cost savings through reduced waste, and we will see a shorter build programme and ultimately less operational impact,” said Ajoy. “Using controlled factory conditions will give us a better quality of product and we expect better health and safety outcomes because we are moving towards pre-planned and standardised tasks that will improve planning. The digital rehearsals will help everyone understand the process before we begin, and the front-loaded design has achieved risk reduction, better operational availability of the asset, and less financial uncertainty.

“In terms of the delivery outcome, we initially had a completion date of 2026; despite all the challenges, we plan to finish 12 months early.”

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