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Interserve builds clinical facility in nine days using PlanGrid

Interserve Group Limited is an international construction and support services company headquartered in the UK. The company works with private and public sector clients in more than 40 countries, leading on the development and delivery of excellent outcomes for clients. Interserve employs 53,500 workers globally and is focused on going above and beyond to make a positive difference on every build.


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tasks created and closed out including snags, defects and incomplete work

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The Problem

Interserve Construction’s mission is to create better environments for people to live and work in. With its wide range of services and expertise, the company was called upon to help in the UK’s battle against the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic in March 2020. Their task was to take the blueprint of the nearly complete London Excel Nightingale Hospital and enhance it. They used this enhanced blueprint to transform the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham into a clinical facility. The facility was intended to be used for general medical care of Covid-19 patients, ensuring local hospitals had the capacity to provide specialist intensive care for the most serious cases of the virus.

Interserve, working on behalf of the NHS and the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB), was charged with delivering the facility in record time while adhering to strict social distancing measures. Following guidance set out by the UK government and the Construction Leadership Council, the team needed to ensure employees and supply chain partners were kept safe over the course of this challenging project.

The project involved collaboration across multiple organisations including the NHS, the Ministry of Defence, the NEC, CBRE, Cadent Gas, Interserve Construction and Interserve Engineering Services. Dan Harmer, Project Manager, Interserve Construction said: “With 182,000 square metres of space in the NEC, our team and supply chain partners were working around the clock to deliver this crucial medical facility in record time. To be able to collaborate effectively and efficiently, we needed to find a solution that would allow everyone involved to have access to up-to-date records of drawings and plans.”

In usual circumstances, a project of this scale would involve months of planning. With time being of the essence for the project team, Dan needed a solution for colleagues to access project data and to communicate necessary changes quickly and easily. As the project leader he needed to ensure that all the on-site teams collaborated effectively and safely to transform a vast exhibition space into a high-class healthcare facility built to specific clinical standards.

The Solution

Dan was already familiar with PlanGrid having used it on a previous project, The Lansdowne residential development in Birmingham. Interserve implemented PlanGrid in the construction of this 18-storey building with 206 luxury apartments in 2019 and completed the project ahead of schedule. PlanGrid is a cloud-based construction productivity tool which enables teams to access digital drawings and other key documentation on-site from any mobile device. Dan was impressed by the platform’s intuitive interface and highly customisable features and was confident that those not familiar with the software would be able to learn how to use it quickly.

The PlanGrid project for the NHS Nightingale was set-up and ready to be deployed in less than two hours which included the upload of 150 drawings. Within 24 hours all those working on site could access the new technology. The cloud-based software enabled the extended project team to access up to date drawings and records remotely, meaning social distancing measures didn’t impact the delivery time.

Over the very short lifecycle of the project, 13 miles of bed bays were laid end-to-end as well as 64 miles of cable. In addition to this, Interserve laid vinyl on the equivalent of 11.5 football pitches and 10 miles of medical-grade copper piping was put down so having the ability to access plans in real-time was crucial. This meant that the project team could focus more of their time on delivery as opposed to having to walk the expansive length and breadth of the NEC just to access project data.

Dan said: “As the drawings and plans were evolving on an almost hourly basis, we wanted to keep an accurate record and mark-up any changes. We also needed to make sure that what we were building on site was as close as they could be to the plans that were being made in the project office across the road.”

The software was deployed on mobile phones, tablets and computers and those not familiar with using it were partnered with a ‘buddy’ who had previous experience using PlanGrid to help with adoption.

Importantly, PlanGrid allowed the team to accurately track and record changes made to the NEC site which will help when the building eventually returns to its former state. “The fact that we could date, and time stamp plans meant that there was no confusion or miscommunication between those working on the ground. Being able to store photos also meant that any changes made to the NEC could be accurately recorded which is so important for when we come to return the space to its original purpose,” said Dan.

“The feedback from both the Interserve team and our supply chain partners was excellent,” said Dan. “The nature of this project meant all those involved were working around the clock to get the facility complete. Dayshifts and nightshifts blurred into one. However, the handover process between these shifts were seamless because from a paperwork perspective, everything was audit trailed and up to date.”

“Using a cloud solution allows you to pull and print off reports and means that as a Project Manager, you can make sure the right people are doing the right tasks. PlanGrid was absolutely the right tool for this job”, said Dan.

The Results

The NHS Nightingale in Birmingham was built in just nine days by more than 50 Interserve Construction and Engineering Services employees and more than 400 sub-contractors. Achieved in record time whilst observing the required strict social distancing rules, the facility will provide resilience to the UK’s NHS if needed in the battle against Covid-19.

Using PlanGrid helped in all aspects of the project’s lifecycle meaning that handover, like the construction phase of the project, was a smooth and speedy process. Dan said: “Being able to photograph any snags and create a report that captures them in a point in time helped us rectify any issues as soon as we could.” Within 48 hours, handover was closed out and the facility was ready to be used.

86,000 construction hours were clocked up during the project which was delivered to the most exacting clinical standards. “Not the largest project I’ve ever worked on, but arguably the most important one,” said Dan. “To me the project was underscored by innovation, new working practices, design solutions and new technology. For those involved with the project, there was not only a great sense of achievement for delivering such an awesome project but also an overwhelming sense of national pride.”

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"Using a cloud solution allows you to pull and print off reports and means that as a Project Manager, you can make sure the right people are doing the right tasks. PlanGrid was absolutely the right tool for this job."

- Dan Harmer, Project Manager

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