Restructuring Greece: Project Managing the Challenge

Martin Hirko
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center leaves a legacy that will reshape construction in Greece. Best practice project management is the key, if the government is to replicate the center’s success.

Construction of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) started in the autumn of 2012. Later in 2016, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation will donate the facility to the Greek state. Following the occupancy phase, the center is due to open in spring 2017.

One of the biggest construction projects in Greece’s recent history, SNFCC’s vision is to provide Greece and Athens with institutional foundations to move forward and to form a framework for the future. The center’s three main elements, education, culture and sustainability, will enhance opportunities for the city and its people.

Construction’s role in economic recovery

For Greece, currently at a critical and uncertain economic juncture, restructuring of its economic fabric is a priority. Construction has a part to play and public sector projects will continue to be scrutinised for best value. Although the SNFCC is a unique, privately-funded project, Greece’s public sector construction can benefit from using the same project management principles.

The PMI Greece Chapter’s 2015 annual congress emphasised the need for global best practice project management, if construction projects are to contribute to economic recovery. I was pleased to be invited to speak at the congress, to share what we’ve learned from the SNFCC.

Learning from the SNFCC

The SNFCC is exemplary in the local construction market, meeting its progress milestones and now approaching successful conclusion. It’s therefore well-placed to illustrate the hallmarks and the benefits of good project management.

...SNFCC’s vision is to provide Greece and Athens with institutional foundations to move forward and to form a framework for the future.

Faithful+Gould has provided the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) with independent project management consultancy from the outset. Services include consultant and contractor procurement, program management, cost management, LEED certification coordination, and support for procurement of facilities management and other operational issues.

Bringing global best practice

We selected private sector best practice methods, applying these through the design phase and into procurement. Our early involvement enabled us to influence the design, providing value engineering to ensure that costs were contained.

Selection of the procurement route and the best team is especially important. Precise bidder requirements will rule out firms that can’t do a worthy job, so it’s vital to get those bidder requirements accurate.

On the SNFCC, this process resulted in a short-list of four potential construction partners capable of performing well. As independent consultants, we were able to challenge the local construction culture, and were mindful of, but not bound by, local influences and networks. The clear approach, adopted from project inception, gave the selected contractor consistent aims and boundaries, clear expectations and, of course, reassurance that they’d get paid on time.

It’s imperative that the client, their project representative, design team and other advisors are all on the same page...

As the project has progressed, Faithful+Gould has kept the team on course by maintaining a calm and organised approach. Most important is consistency in our communications to the consultants as well as the contractor. It’s imperative that the client, their project representative, design team and other advisors are all on the same page, and respond in a like-minded manner to the contractor. I’m proud to report that we have maintained consistency in our communications to the project team throughout the eight-year life of this project, and especially so during the construction period.

The benefits

The SNFCC (latest photos) has benefited from our project management approach, gaining higher levels of assurance in:

  • Health & safety compliance
  • Budget compliance and final cost certainty
  • Schedule tracking and completion
  • Quality, value and sustainability

Dr. Theodore Maravelias, Chief Technical Officer of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, remarked during a recent conversation: "Martin…you have changed the way construction is done in Greece." This was a real accolade for the whole team, demonstrating Faithful+Gould’s positive impact on the construction industry in Greece. We are proud to be involved with providing the country and city with the new institutional foundations it needs to move forward.

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Martin Hirko Senior Director Contact me View my profile >