BIFM judges have recognised the achievement of Landmarc Support Services which has constructed a replica village for training troops en route to operational duty in Afghanistan.
By James Richards
28 October 2010
Landmarc Support Services Limited provides facilities management to the Defence Training Estate (DTE) – part of Defence Estates, the MOD’s property management organisation, which develops and maintains the UK’s Armed Forces’ training facilities. Jointly owned by Interserve and CSC, Landmarc employs 1,300 staff over 120 sites across the UK.
A brief was drawn up in 2008 to create a realistic environment on the training area at Stanford in Norfolk. This brief drew on the collective experiences of servicemen and women, as well as video and still imagery gathered in Afghanistan. The critical completion date was set for April 2009, leaving only eight months to construct the new facilities. This completion date was driven by the need to deliver an important training package for infantry units deploying to Afghanistan.
Landmarc’s in-house project team was responsible for delivering the project. Representatives from Defence Estates worked with the team to ensure an integrated approach, and to provide specific technical knowledge and planning support; for example, permission from the local council, liaison with Natural England to ensure compliance with appropriate environmental legislation.
“Most people thought it couldn’t be done,” says Landmarc’s project manager Mike Adam referring to the eight-month project window. “Thousands of troops and their vehicles had been booked in to use the facility,” he adds. “Missing the deadline simply wasn’t an option.”
A preparatory construction phase was initiated, with the site’s existing roads being adapted and strengthened for higher volume and heavier usage, by armoured military vehicles. Some of those vehicles, have a maximum load capability of 28 tonnes.
Eight months later, the site was completed on time and under budget. Two complexes, one rural and one urban are the key facilities in this £14m development which also includes enhancements to several forward operating bases, a bridge replacement, the creation of six Counter Improvised Explosive Devices (CIED) lanes and a series of mitigation processes
Shipping containers were used as frameworks for the buildings to accelerate the design and construction process. This included 280 modified ISO containers being clad with plywood and sprayed with 3,000 metres of sandy-brown pre-cast concrete perimeter walling.
A network of replica Taliban tunnels was also installed at the site, along with a vast array of authentic and imitation props (roughly 8,000). These included: plastic fruits, grain sacks, carts, and moulded hanging meats.
Agricultural reports from the Helmand region were used to ensure the fruit and vegetables sourced were exactly what soldiers would see such as plastic pomegranates, watermelon and corn on the cob.
Adam explains how the team had to think creatively about management: “At a very early stage, we decided to purchase the walling and containers separately. Originally, it was supposed to be under the same contract. By splitting up the procurement, we managed to save three months.”
In order to meet the strict OPTAG deadline, Landmarc was compelled to build over the winter months. While today the site is appropriately dusty and dry, during the construction process the site was consistently flooded due to heavy rain. Snow and ice, which froze aggregate solid, threatened to upset the already demanding timetable, as temperatures on the site fell as low as -9°C.
Adam attributes the successful completion of the project to a culture of fast decision-making. “We had a small, pro-active team who could push things along quickly. Another benefit to this approach was that it helped to keep costs down.”
The team also faced potential obstacles in terms of planning and chain of command requirements. However, according to Adam: “Natural England are enablers, and want to see organisations achieving their sustainability commitments. Our long-standing relationships with these organisations were very important.”
He concludes, “It was a classic case of all the pieces of the puzzle coming together.”