Construction Manager of the Year Public & Leisure | 2022

Joe O’Connell
Kier Construction

St Sidwell’s Point, Exeter: construction of Passivhaus leisure centre, completed in 171 weeks. 

Client: Exeter City Council 

Contract: JCT, design and build 

Value: £36m 

About the Project

Joe O’Connell understood that this once-in-a-lifetime leisure centre project required management control and passion. His effective, highly organised and enthusiastic leadership delivered the rarely achieved passivhaus standard.  

The energy super-efficiency of passivhaus requires performance-unimpaired construction – in other words, flawless quality. Joe drove the supply chain partners up the learning and quality curve with measurable success. He briefed them on passivhaus pre-tender, held installation workshops, and developed training modules for each trade explaining what passivhaus meant for installation operatives and how the quality of all their work was crucial to certification.  

His supplier engagement was remarkably successful. He had the airtightness membrane manufacturer employ an adhesive that could bind the facade’s 250mm-thick insulation ties to its membranes. That eliminated the 5,000 penetrations through the building’s airtightness line – every one a thermal bridge – that would otherwise have been required.  

The passivhaus air leakage standard is under 0.4m3/hr/m2, nearly twice as strict as the building regulation requirement. Joe didn’t just meet it, he smashed it, with 0.3m3/hr/m2.   

That alone is phenomenal. Add in the by no means inconsiderable challenges of four swimming pool structures and a large and complex mechanical and electrical installation, a difficult city centre site and a design of architectural merit, and you get some idea of Joe’s achievement. The delighted client certainly recognises his performance as being as rigorous and advantageous as the passivhaus standard. 

St Sidwell’s Point, Exeter