Blog: Client of the Year SECBE Awards 2020 finalist - University of Oxford

20 May 2020

sponsored by Willmott Dixon

Client of the Year SECBE Awards 2020 finalist - University of Oxford (submitted by fjmt studio)

Forming part of the John Radcliffe Hospital complex in Oxford, the Wolfson Building involved excellent involvement from the client - University of Oxford. The building offers the UK’s first dedicated centre for the prevention of stroke and dementia research (read more about the project).

A comprehensive stakeholder consultation process was endorsed by the client group throughout the design and construction process. Monthly project reviews were conducted by the Project Board consisting of the Chair from University Division, head of department and Estates Services - providing clear, effective leadership and decisions required by the project team. This was particularly critical as the difficult site conditions and tight programme resulted in a complicated construction process and challenges that required careful consideration and prompt direction.

The University procured the design following careful selection of the consultant team. The team was selected based upon consideration of experience and capability and a value-for-money proposal following a competitive tender process. The fjmt team conducted a detailed interview with the University to present its approach and methodology, and the client provided responses to their proposed design approach considering the budget, functionality and flexibility required. This helped outline fjmt's understanding of the main challenges and strategies for the client's management and their understanding of the required university processes, procedures and approvals.

Soft landings processes, mid-construction workshops, client site visits, numerous sample reviews, and engagement workshops with the client group helped to bring users along on the journey with the experienced project team to help bring innovation and lessons-learned to the project. The University Estates Services client team's  implementation of a soft landing process improved:

  • project delivery and handover
  • level of aftercare
  • performance of project delivery team
  • client satisfaction
  • facilitated continuous improvement and learning
  • timely rectification of issues (in project rather than post-project) fostering a “no surprises” culture

The client team implementation of post-occupancy evaluation aims to raise awareness of performance from early stages of briefing and feasibility for other projects in the Universities. It assists the management of expectations through design, construction and commissioning, and into initial operation. It also Improves attention to detail immediately before and for much longer periods after handover, as well as facilitating continuous improvement and learning. Such processes add a further quality control process. The leadership and implementation of these processes ensured that the building met all project objectives.

Client continuous support, leadership and recognition of the challenges associated with delivering a naturally ventilated building with many conflicting constraints has been a key driver in achieving BREEAM Excellent and a 77% reduction when compared to baseline Part L compliance. When compared to the RIBA 2030 challenge the Net Operation energy surpasses the 2020 targets and comes close to meeting the 2025 targets. This leadership benefited the design and construction process and the operational cost for the users. Client implementation of a soft-landing process and a training requirement prior to handover has also ensured the users understanding of the bespoken integrated louvre system, which enables a building that typically requires a closed controlled environment to enjoy natural ventilation.


  • This is the UK’s first dedicated Centre for the Prevention of Stroke and Dementia. (CPSD).
  • From outset through to completion, sustainability has been a key driver. In addition to achieving BREEAM excellent, the project, when benchmarked to the RIBA 2030 challenge, results in the Net Operation energy surpassing the 2020 targets and coming extremely close to meeting the 2025 targets.
  • Successful collaboration amongst client, stakeholders, design team and contractors, combined with an open and transparent communication process throughout all phases of the project, has enabled challenges to be reviewed, understood and resolved collaboratively to meet the project aspirations to deliver a high quality and innovative building.

About the Client of the Year Award: 

Construction clients have an important role to play in transforming the way the industry operates.  How projects come to market has a significant impact on the ability of the construction industry to provide innovative, whole life value-for-money solutions. Much waste in construction is driven through approach to risk across the supply chain and judges are looking for a construction client that has been actively involved in enabling the construction programme and developed strategies for encouraging and rewarding excellence. 

> Find out more about the other finalists here

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