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Portman House

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technical & practice

The £25 million refurbishment of Portman House in London's Oxford Street has just been completed, on time and on budget. The resulting 9,385m 2office layout has been designed for more than one tenant and a variety of lease lengths to allow its owner, Land Securities, to maximise the potential of the building.

A new structural steel frame and composite floor have been provided to create six new floors with the finished building clad in a combination of curtain walling and Portlandstyle reconstituted stone. The retail units at street level had to remain open throughout the project. The tight city-centre location and the need to keep the ground-floor shops operational throughout added to the complexity.

When this project started, project extranets were cutting-edge technologies and the client wanted a system that gave the security of a complete audit trail and total reliability.

All the designers, main contractor and 10 subcontractors have been linked directly into Cadweb. This enabled changes to the scheme (for example, the basement, originally intended to be new retail space, is now to be used for car parking) to be redesigned, assessed, and the revised production information distributed in real time, with minimum delay.

A full audit trail is created for every document, including every revision, listing when the document was retrieved and when it was opened. On receipt of design information from the architect and engineer, the main contractor disseminated it - by selective access - to subcontractors and site staff as appropriate. 'People can't blame the post any more, ' he says. 'We know if they have a document - the latest revision - and whether they have failed to open it.'

About 50,000 project documents and drawings have gone through the system so far - including 10,000 drawings and revisions.

Snail-mail delivery timescales, which can also have a significant effect on scheme costs, have effectively been eliminated. During a postal strike in 2001, the Cadweb extranet enabled the scheme works to proceed unhindered.

Tenants who signed up prior to completion, also had instant access to the latest revision of every relevant drawing, to help them plan their fit-outs, and were provided with a straightforward downloadable file of 'as built' records and 'operations and maintenance manuals'. Just on this aspect alone, the timesavings of Cadweb compared with the conventional paper chase are huge.

Francis Newman, sales and marketing director of Cadweb

PROJECT TEAM CLIENT Land Securities

ARCHITECT Sheppard Robson

CONTRACTOR HBG Construction

STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Mouchel

BUILDING SERVICES ENGINEER Jaros Baum & Bolles

CONTRACT START September 1999

COMPLETION September 2001 VALUE £25 million

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