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An interview with Robert Bradley, National Automotive Innovation Centre Construction Director

Robert Bradley is the Construction Director for the National Automotive Innovation Centre (NAIC). He works for our contractors, Balfour Beatty. We asked him some questions about the project and his time at Warwick...

About the project

What's been the most exciting part of the project?

It’s really exciting to be involved in such a prestigious project. I think it's fair to say it's world-leading, and will be an icon for generations to come. I don’t think there will be many similar facilities built.

What's been the most challenging part of the project?

I think this will be ensuring that all parts of the team understand the complex details of the project as no two rooms are the same - the fire, acoustic, functions and mechanical and electrical services all differ.

What are you most proud of?

There are three things I guess. Firstly I'm really proud of the safety record of the project - in excess of one million hours with no health and safety incidents! It's our core belief that all the workforce do not come to harm.

Secondly is how the whole construction team, design consultants, workforce and the multiple stakeholders have engendered a spirit of collaboration to deliver a technically complex project. Thirdly has to be how the physical glulam roof structure has turned out and will be enhanced further once the lighting schemes have been installed

1,000,000 hours worked with no H&S incidents is a great achievement, as is the outstanding 46/50 in the risk assessment. Well done! How did you do it?

This is really simple communication and collaboration. It is vital that the workforce are engaged at multiple levels. We use morning briefings to identify critical activities to ensure everyone knows what’s happening. We also get feedback on the plan with suggestions on improvements from the guys doing the work.

I meet with the supply chain managing directors every two weeks to ensure each business is equally committed to providing a safe place of work. It is vital though that people listen to concerns then act of them - we have a culture of no blame that allows mature conversations at all levels.

What does that 46/50 figure mean?

This relates to the Considerate Constructors Scheme which we sign up to. We get regular visits from an auditor who visits sites and looks at the facilities for the workforce and lines of communication. They also review the site from the point of view of a member of the public, checking how we engage, enabling people with special requirements to transit the site or indeed access the works. It’s important that we recognise that we are a visitor in your neighbourhood and that we need to respect the locality and surroundings.

What is the ethos of the construction team?

I'd like to think we are seen as a solution-driven team, there is a culture of “there are no problems, only tasks that require solutions”.

If there was one thing you could change about the design of the building, what would it be?

There are no big ticket areas that I would change, but there are small things that could be simplified.

What lessons could other projects learn from you?

We have had visits from other projects with the key messages being the levels of safety, Considerate Constructors performance, Building Information Modelling (BIM) capability, use of technology, large scale glulam/cross laminated timber structures and collaboration techniques.

How many people are working on the site?

There has been approx. 300 operatives on site and we expect this to rise to 350-400 in the next few months.

Who has the most important job on this project?

Uhmm a hard one… I think this has to be the logistics team. They are the unsung heroes of the project. They are the first to arrive to ensure the site is opened, the paths gritted and that it's safe to start work. They work tirelessly through the day ensuring materials are delivered and distributed to the work face, with all waste removed. They ensure that vehicles are marshalled for pedestrian safety. They are also the last to leave at the end of the day ensuring the site is secure.

About campus and working at Warwick

What do you like best about working on our campus?

There is a real sense of camaraderie amongst all parts of the University and a sense of sharing issues, knowledge and good practice.

Have you learned anything about Warwick since you've been here?

Yes - I didn’t realise how large the campus is and the diverse nature of the facilities, coupled with the integration of industry partners.

Which Warwick staff members have you worked with?

The key people are the project team – Gavin Edwards, WMG, Jim Mylott, Estates, campus Health and Safety team, Campus Security and, of course, Suzanne England and her team.

You’ve been here as long as many of our students... do you feel part of Warwick now?

We very much feel part of the University and are looking at ways we can foster long term relationships in the future.

We have a saying... "the Warwick Way". Everyone knows what it is, but it’s hard to put it into words. What does it mean for you?

This for me is the relentless spirit of open collaboration in the pursuit of a common goal.

What building stands out for you?

The Mechanochemical Cell Biology Building - I love the striking lines of the cladding and glazing.

Photo of Robert Bradley

Robert Bradley, Construction Director, National Automotive Innovation Centre project

Photo of the NAIC under construction

Photo of the NAIC under construction