Experience matters: designing certainty into an ‘Exemplar Project’

The Grange University Hospital
South East Wales, UK
At a glance

As principal contractor on this award-winning, £350m project, Laing O’Rourke combined all of its past experience to design out risk and embed massive efficiency. 

In an engineering era where many projects see their budgets challenged as a result of unforeseen issues, this state-of-the-art, 560-bed hospital build experienced a 23% programme saving, including over 237,000 working-hours. 

The hospital opened with zero defects in November 2020, four months early to help the Health Board respond to winter season pressures and the second wave of Covid-19. It was made possible through the combination of best-practice experience and smart technology and included enhanced safety through our DfMA approach.

Below budget, above expectations

How was such a successful outcome one that was identified as an ‘Exemplar Project’ by Constructing Excellence Wales, made possible?

The client's team, led by Gleeds encouraged early contractor involvement, enabled by The NHS Wales Designed for Life Framework. This created an environment in which the full hospital experience of Laing O’Rourke with their design team of BDP, WSP and AECOM was shared. Open-source collaboration created a powerful knowledge bank.

Our own team drew from their on-the-ground experience of recent hospital builds, including Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and the Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary and compared notes on Liverpool’s Clatterbridge Cancer Centre.

This allowed the team to take a Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) approach. Precast and prefabricated elements – from concrete columns to loadbearing insulated facade panels, and from bathroom ‘pods’ to hollowcore slabs – were designed in at an early stage, securing supply chain and programme benefits as a result. The 1,200 precast wall modules, for example, represented an on site working-hours saving of 95%.

Logistics planning and design changes were managed within a comprehensive digital modelling system: purposeful technology that enabled tracking and predictive analysis of every aspect of the project, down to individual components. This ensured data was accurate from day one.

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With the best will in the world, fundamentally, had this been a traditional build with the same start date we would not have been in a position to offer support to this national pandemic and the NHS. We’ve always been proud of the modern methods of construction (MMC) involved at Grange University Hospital and the programme savings which it offered compared to a traditional build but never have the benefits been more apparent than during this crisis


Laing O'Rourke - Grange University Hospital


Laing O'Rourke - Grange University Hospital




precast concrete elements


specialist services in hospital

The result

The reduction of 237,000 on site working hours through the application of DfMA slashed 42 weeks from the construction timetable, giving a 23% programme saving. The project was handed over with zero defects and significantly within budget.

Experience from past projects came together to influence every aspect – intelligent, data-driven planning drove an efficient logistics strategy – mitigating risk and dramatically improving project visibility for all stakeholders.

The result is a hospital and specialist and critical care centre that delivers the certainty of top-level medical care for over 600,000 people in southeast Wales.