UTILITY Thames Water and engineering outfit Binnie Black & Veatch are battling mainstream contractors for one of the largest prime contracts to come up for grabs so far.
The two are among 22 firms that have registered interest in the Lucknow Barracks scheme in Wiltshire, worth between £28 million and £38 million.
Defence Estates, the Ministry of Defence's procurement arm, has repeatedly said it wants non-construction firms to bid for prime contracts as well as traditional contractors.
Eight firms are due to be selected for the next stage of the project by June 6 in preparation for a tour of the site on June 21.
The other prequalifiers are: Alfred McAlpine; Amec; Amey; Balfour Beatty; Ballast Wiltshier; Bovis Lend Lease; Carillion; Citex; Costain; HBG; Kier; Kvaerner; Laing; Morrison; Mowlem; Shepherd; Sir Robert McAlpine; Taylor Woodrow; Tilbury Douglas and Warings.
A Defence Estates spokesman said the standard of entries was high and that more than eight contenders might be invited to the open day.
Three firms will be invited to negotiate, with a winner set to be named on February 21, 2001.
The job involves rebuilding the army barracks to provide accommodation for more than 600 personnel.
Work on site will start almost immediately afterwards.
Construction work is scheduled to last two years, after which the prime contractor will be required to maintain the barracks for a further three years before being issued with a certificate in July 2006, guaranteeing the job meets the initial brief.