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Collaboration is key in managing the World’s largest rugby venue

27 October 2020

When attempting to understand the basic requirements within the hard services contract to run the Rugby Football Union (RFU) Twickenham Stadium, the sheer size and scale of the facility quickly becomes apparent.

Capable of seating up to 82,000 people within the stadium itself, which makes it the largest dedicated rugby union venue in the World, the site includes numerous additional facilities such as a large hotel, gym, restaurants, members’ bars, corporate entertainment boxes and extensive and flexible event spaces.

All of these have their own special requirements, adding to the complexity of head of venue facilities David Hewins’ role in managing all aspects of the extensive RFU stadium, and meeting the expectations of its visitors and on-site partners.

Not only has this been achieved to a high level, but continues to see various further successes directly attributable to the close working relationship between Mr Hewins and his team with CBRE Workplace Solutions.

This began more than three years ago, following the winning of the hard services contract by CBRE that saw the mapping and analysis of the stadium’s assets begin to determine their condition and provide an in-depth understanding of the site.

This is a complex task at a venue which has been built up in several phases over 20 years. The contract is managed for CBRE by business unit director Edward Buttery, who recently arranged a site visit for PFM.

“We’re very proud of the fact that we’ve achieved a close partnership with David and his team, to the point where it’s difficult for visitors to distinguish who works for the RFU or CBRE,” says Mr Buttery.

“This has seen our collaboration extend far beyond the original hard service remit, led by our account manager Francois Lombard, to large projects and energy saving initiatives.

"No small feat when the team regularly work 16+hr days to support matches, always supported by their senior area manager Ben Selkirk. The strong sense of transparency, mutual support and camaraderie is key to the RFU-CBRE success.”

Left to right: Ben Selkirk, Ed Buttery, Colin Neely, David Hewins and Sarah Shaw

His comments refer to the pre-Covid-19 period, with conditions currently resulting in the majority of on-site activities needing significant adjustments to manage the stadium safely in a near-vacant environment.

Appreciation for its hard service provider partner is expressed by RFU venue director Mark Lynch: “The relationship both with a senior management level and with the engineers on the ground could not have been better and CBRE have without doubt moved the venue forward from a maintenance perspective.”

CBRE chartered energy manager Sarah Shaw has also been closely involved in taking the relationship beyond the simple maintenance basis.

The energy efficiency focus began with the initial energy audits and site surveys from 2017, and led to significant energy savings, without major capital investment.

Between 2018 and 2019, a 20% saving in electricity consumption was achieved from a high of 1.8mkWh, along with a 9% reduction in gas usage, resulting in a corresponding level of carbon emission savings equivalent to taking more than 280 cars off the road for a year.

This has been achieved through optimising systems such as the building management system, improving the efficiency of the plant, increasing energy awareness of the staff and changing the behaviour of the stadium users.

“An example of this is changing the match day lighting practices, and a dedicated focus on efficient use of the current building systems. CBRE staff can regularly be found running around adjusting individual valves and set points to maximise the efficiency, especially pre- and post-match,” says Mr Hewins.

He is understandably proud of the many new developments added to the stadium in recent years, several of which were the largest and/or the first of their kind on a global basis.

One of these is the LED display installed on the second tier of the stadium and the first in the world to provide a complete circle.

Perhaps the best example of this is the monitoring of the use of the lighting system during match days that previously saw all lights switched on throughout the pre- and post-match periods.

Following careful testing, just 25% of lighting is now used during these times, with the system now operating at 100% output for just the two hours of each game.

The next stage of the RFU efficiency drive includes a considerable increase in the remote monitoring of assets, analysis of the resulting data and further adjustment of the BMS and control systems.

Mr Hewins states that he is driving the relationship towards true condition-based maintenance, rather than traditional maintenance models such as SFG20.

To manage costs, he has led efforts such as TRIAD avoidance and included all cleaning, grounds keepers, engineers and management teams to minimise risk and ensure that everyone is engaged with reducing energy usage.

"National Grid TRIAD periods usually occur on weekdays between the hours of 4pm-6pm during the winter, and by reducing the electrical load during these times we are not only saving energy but we are also reducing the pressure on the grid when its most stressed,” he says.

CBRE has also been engaged by the RFU to deliver extensive project work, further extending the level of trust between the two partners.

Not least of these tasks is the strengthening and expansion of the roof structure to allow the replacement of panels and fitting of extensive new sponsorship branding across the roof of the stadium.

When more normal activities return, the new transparent roof panels will further reduce the need for lighting on match days and result in additional savings in electricity usage, further enhanced by the replacement of the roofing panels of the South and East stands.

Mr Buttery tells PFM that the successful RFU and CBRE partnership is clear at both organisational and individual levels: “Both teams have a deeply ingrained culture of quality, determination, and never failing on a match day.

"David Hewins’ leadership and focus, means our capabilities are put to best use, especially with his background as a maintenance provider himself, he knows how to get the best out of a partnership like this.

“I have managed the team for two years and have great respect for the challenge of managing a match day of tens of thousands of fans.

"As well as being very proud of our outstanding site team, CBRE is building on a real depth of stadium knowledge at overhead level as well, to offer stadia-focussed technical and energy expertise we believe is unmatched in the industry.”

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