Shepherd man named Britain`s best construction manager

Neil Matthias, who works for Shepherd Construction, has been named Construction Manager of the Year by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB).

Matthias won the award for his work on the £44.5m development of Rockliffe Hall Hotel, Golf Course and Spa in Hurworth on Tees, Darlington.

The project over a 350 acre site involved the sensitive restoration of a Grade II listed Old Hall that had lain derelict for several years, and many new-build elements which had to blend in with the existing structures. The project included a golf course with accompanying facilities designed to meet championship standards.

Chris Blythe CIOB chief executive said: “When partnering goes well, it can work magnificently. Neil treated the entire workforce as equals in a tour-de-force example of collaboration. The rewards of his whole-team approach included innovation, quality, and savings. Through constant questioning of details and creative thought, he delivered excellence.

“By winning our Construction Manager of the Year Award (CMYA) 2010 that high regard has been shared by his peers in the industry, and he now joins a very select few to have won such great acclaim.”

Matthias championed Lean construction. Six-week look-ahead plans eliminated any constraint. Plans detailing the week’s operations were relayed to the workforce through morning ‘huddles’, offering an opportunity for feedback and involvement in overall decision-making and he brought the subcontractors and specialists on board early to contribute their expertise and find the cost savings that would bring the scheme within budget.

His ability to bring the whole workforce to bear delivered his leading innovation on this project: a tunnel to link the separate basements at either end of the Old Hall. Once the discovery of a brick vault under part of the derelict hall piled up the risk involved in digging an external tunnel, he set out his own proposal: to prop up the superstructure with scaffold while open-excavating a tunnel through the building, using small plant to excavate and conveyors to remove the spoil. The development of the idea by the team turned it into an effective and economical solution.

Commenting on his award, Neil Matthias said: “I live and dream construction. I have worked in the industry since school, having started out as an YTS joiner with Shepherd, and working my way up to become a project manager.”

For more than thirty years CMYA has been the leading industry event to celebrate the individual achievement and excellence of managers in construction, rather than the projects, processes or design.

This year’s awards included more than 120 finalists and were held at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London on 14th October.

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