Fundamental to Elkins meeting its KPIs on this substantial renovation project of 120 properties, was effective communication with residents and other stakeholders throughout the project. This was frequent and wide-ranging, including coffee mornings and surgeries in support of newsletters and emails to ensure residents were informed well in advance of any expected disruption or noise.
Residents on the estate form a tight-knit community and are renowned for their patriotism; during the delayed 2020 UEFA European Football Championship the estate was decked out with over 400 flags of St George. Resident liaison officer, Julia Cole, operated an open-door policy, so anybody could come to the site office at any time, to express any concerns or ask for information.
“It was vital we got residents onside,” she says. “Obviously, there is always concern at the start of projects like this, which impact the daily lives of residents. Communication is key. Once they got to know us the Kirby Estate residents were terrific; they even brought us biscuits and home-made cakes.”
There was a particular challenge when COVID-19 lockdown struck seven months to the programme. Elkins had to quickly establish COVID protocols and explain to residents the additional safety measures and contact arrangements it had put in place. “Understandably, there was significant concern about COVID at this time,” says Cole, “and residents were extremely pleased with how it was all handled.”
There were other unforeseen challenges too, a TfL cycle route was specified mid-contract, whilst windows had to be redesigned because of an error on the architect’s drawings.
Reporting against KPIs were completed directly into Calford Seadon’s IT system, with details on all asset improvement works uploaded in a format specified by the client. When the pandemic hit, Elkins already had a proactive project management plan in place, so rather than merely reacting to programme slippage, it was able to create more time by identifying and prioritising tasks on the critical path in the event of any supply problems or bad weather. The scale of the variations however, meant that delays were inevitable and again communication with residents was vital.
Elkins’ Contract Manager, Richard Wheate says, “There were significant additional repairs to concrete and coatings that hadn’t been specified but the key challenge on this project was the introduction of the TfL bicycle lane. It meant rearranging scaffolding design and programmes and new access arrangements to successfully complete the project. The project was eventually extended by nine months and we managed the residents’ expectations of the revised completion dates with more intensive communications.”
The adjustments to the programme were made to suit both the requirements of the residents and the needs of Calford Seadon’s Contract Administrator, Richard Bellord. “Elkins’ site delivery, contract, commercial and procurement teams worked together to ensure they met the revised programme, on time, on budget and to the expected level of quality” he says. “And by completing all the specialist scaffold design early and readjusting the programme, they were able to keep resident satisfaction levels high.”
As well as arranged meetings with residents, the site managers visited every property on a daily basis during the programme to monitor progress and ensure the quality of workmanship. When the works were complete, they and the site foremen carried out a snagging visit with every resident, giving them the opportunity to raise any issues and ensuring were satisfied with the work carried out in their home.
“We really got to know our customers well and because we have a diverse and multi-lingual workforce, we could offer a good experience to all customers irrespective of their culture, beliefs or language,” says Wheate.
Employment for local people
Although the additional works meant the original contract sum was increased by £130,000, Elkins made no extra charge for extension of time because of COVID. And as well as carrying out some gardening works in two overgrown areas of the estate free of charge, Elkins gave two local students work experience on the project and took on a trainee scaffolder from the estate, who has gone on on to become a full-time employee.