from the perspective of FIDIC engineer

This facility was built for a corporation whose brand is well known around the world and which has about 400 similar stores worldwide, but due to strict rules for using their brand, I will not mention their name in this text.

Although the facilities of this corporation are very similar, they are not typical and each is designed and built in a special way, in accordance with local conditions and their latest experiences.

About the building…

The store is located in the BTC shopping area in Ljubljana. Gross area of the building is about 34,000 m2. The building has two floors. Building footprint is about 21,400m2. The plot area is about 68,000m2.

The facility contains a sales area, warehouse, offices and a restaurant.

The building is built of reinforced concrete, the pillars are prefabricated in the contractor's workshop, floor slab of the first floor is prestressed. The roof structure is made of steel elements. The facade is made of sandwich panels.

With technical solutions on this building, such as core heating/cooling system that uses energy from well, solar power plant and transformer substation on the roof, concrete slab as the final floor in offices and sales area (without screed and floor layers), I had no previous experience and it was a special challenge for me.

In addition to the building and the external arrangement, the Client was obliged to relocate the sewage collector and electrical cable duct from the plot and build the surrounding streets.

This facility is the first facility in Slovenia certified as BREEAM Excellent.

The team:

Construction Project Manager employed by the Client,
FIDIC engineer and statutory supervisor: “Boyden”, Belgrade, Serbia - branch office in Ljubljana, Slovenia in cooperation with local partner „Elita“, Slovenia,
Designer: „Elea“, Ljubljana, Slovenia,
General Contractor: “CGP”, Novo Mesto, Slovenia.

How the things were going...

Boyden has started activities on this project in September 2017. At that time, works had already been contracted with three contractors and five nominated subcontractors, based on execution design that was not fully completed. It was expected that the building permits will be issued in a short time and that during that time the designers will finalize the execution design taking into account the comments of the contractors. However, at the end of the year, it became clear that the issuance of building permits will be postponed and that it would be necessary to make changes to the zoning plan. Finalization of execution design has been suspended.

In the first half of 2018, the existing buildings on the plot (about 20,000 m2) were demolished.

In the second half of 2018, some contractors informed the Client that they could not perform the works at the agreed prices because, in their opinion, the market prices had increased significantly in the meantime. The Client decided to repeat the tender for the execution of those works.

The tender procedure was conducted in the first half of 2019. The General Contractor was selected for the works on the construction of the Store and the surrounding streets, and in August 2019, the FIDIC (red book) lump sum contract was signed. One small contractor and three nominated subcontractors remained on the project under contracts signed in 2017.

Works on the relocation of sewage collector and electrical cable duct began at the end of August 2019. The works on the construction of the Store started after the final building permit was obtained, in October 2019.

Common to similar projects built by this corporation is that construction work takes about a year. After approximately 7.5 months, the Client's Retail contractors start equipping the facility. In order to reach such a tight time schedule General Contractor started making workshop drawings for the concrete structure of the facility during the fine tuning of the text of the contract, before the final building permit was obtained. The Client agreed to bear the financial risk of such agreement. This ensured that there was no delay at the beginning of the works, which often happens on projects.

There were also no significant delays during the works. Minor delays in some works were compensated during construction, so the final deadline was not postponed.

The building envelope was closed in April 2020. In July 2020, partial handovers of certain areas of the facility to the Client began, when the Client's Retail contractors were ready to start performing works on equipping the facility. The technical inspection of the facility for obtaining the use permit, by the commission formed by the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning, was performed in September 2020.

The facility was opened to customers in February 2021.

Among other things…

I am free to say that this project has been successfully completed in terms of quality, time schedule and budget.

My opinion is that the organization of this project is an example of how a corporation should organize projects. Client had his representative full time on the construction site in only one person, who was his Construction Project Manager. He had experience in building similar facilities for the same company so that he fully understood all issues related to the construction of facilities and could quickly make decisions concerning the Client. The team of FIDIC engineer was free to manage the project and was not burdened with unnecessary procedures and redundant paperwork.

One of the responsibilities of the team of FIDIC engineer was to ensure that the project was carried out in accordance with the very strict standards of the Client. The performance of all systems has been proven by detailed testing within the handover procedure. I am very pleased that handover procedure has been positively evaluated by all Client's departments (especially Risk department), inspectors of the Insurance Company hired by the Client and various Client's consultants.

Learned on this project…

A good example from this project is that the works were contracted with the General Contractor who had experience on similar facilities and who is financially and organizationally strong enough to be able to quickly and efficiently solve problems that always arise during the execution of works. As a project manager, Boyden has already successfully completed a large project in Ljubljana with this General Contractor before, so there was mutual trust and respect, which facilitated the work of both parties, especially in the beginning of the project.

Strict application of health and safety measures is controlled by an independent company hired by the Client. Financial penalties were agreed for violations, which contributed to the project being completed without major injury to workers. Also, with strict protection measures during the COVID epidemic, no one got sick on the construction site, so the works were carried out at full capacity.

Two issues concerned me before work started. First, whether the contractor will succeed to complete the works on the relocation of the sewage collector on time. It is a collector about 750m long, 1000 - 1200 mm in diameter, at a depth of 6 - 7 m. Our optimistic estimate is that the contractor will need about 3 months for these works. It turned out that they finished the work a little earlier and got some spare time to build the Store.
Second, under the conditions issued by the Ministry of Ecology and Planning, work on the construction site was forbidden after 7 p.m. To reach the time schedule, the contractor had to deliver large quantities of concrete daily. My concern was how it would work given the heavy traffic in the surrounding streets. It is possible that COVID "helped" us a little in this matter with the reduction of traffic jams.

I was also worried about the execution of concrete slabs with built-in pipes for core heating/cooling system, given the little experience that contractors in Slovenia had with these works. However, with good preparation of works and quality control during execution, the system is fully functional.

Failure to obtain building permits when it was planned caused the design process to be interrupted, so that the design was developed until the very end of construction. Requests for additional works were mainly due to the fact that the works were contracted on the basis of execution design which was not finalized at the time of announcing the tender for the selection of contractors. It is always difficult to assess whether announcing a tender before the completion of execution design and final revision of BoQs, due to time savings, brings overall benefit to the project.

Experience from this project explains why it is risky to contract even small works directly with a small company, if the functioning of the entire facility depends on those works. When such a company falls into financial difficulties, the value of its guarantees is too small compared to the consequences of extending the deadline for opening the facility. We resolved such a situation with minimal damage, with the help of the General Contractor who agreed to perform part of the works that were the subject of this contractor.

It was also good for this project that the FIDIC team was engaged in the period before the works started. Boyden had enough time to study the facility, Client standards, organization and special requirements of the Client’s Risk Department, Logistic, Food, IT etc. During this period, Boyden, among other things, prepared a detailed testing and commissioning plan and handover procedure, lists of submittals, detailed time schedule and other documents required during construction.

March 2021