Repair and maintenance makes up half the industry’s output and yet is ignored by anyone who doesn’t do it, including lawyers. At least, they did up until last month

Repair and maintenance accounts for more than half of the construction industry’s turnover and is fundamental to keeping building users happy. Historically, the clients and service providers in this important sector have sought and commanded relatively little attention. As a result, little of the Latham and Egan processes have been aimed at them.

However, in recent years, the focus on whole-life costing and new legislation affecting occupiers have caused a quiet revolution. Improvements in term contracts for maintenance and repair have become a priority and those teams who have got themselves properly organised now stand to gain more from partnering than many of their capital project counterparts.

In particular, local government clients have excelled in this field, with Welwyn Hatfield council’s £40m housing maintenance programme attracting praise from their district auditor for “many examples of good practice”, and Greenwich council’s £200m repairs programme being commended in the 2004 Municipal Journal Awards. In both cases, time and cost savings were combined with increased tenant satisfaction.

Most recently, Sheffield council was named Public Private Partnership of the Year in the Local Government Chronicle Awards for its £640m limited liability partnership, established with Kier, to govern long-term repair and maintenance of all Sheffield’s public buildings.

Each of these programmes used a partnering contract designed to drive a timetable for continuous measured improvement – with the extension of the contract directly dependent on the team meeting key performance indicator targets. This contract also provides a system for moving away from schedules of rates towards a more open-book pricing approach, combined with establishment of long-term relationships between the service provider and its key subcontractors and suppliers.

The contract in question is a by-product of the PPC2000 Project Partnering Form, and is published by the Association of Consultant Architects under the name “TPC2005”. This was launched on 31 March.

Although partnering teams achieve successes on the strength of personal relationships, the use of an integrated partnering contract can help to define their objectives, processes and milestones. It represents a move away from the limitations of partnering when it functions as a non-contractual “parallel universe” where the parties could always fall back on a separate adversarial contract – and, at the first sign of trouble, are much more likely to do so.

Those teams who have got themselves properly organised now stand to gain more from partnering than many of their capital project counterparts

In addition to benefiting from the widespread use of PPC2000 (more than £8bn of projects to date), TPC2005 has been extensively trialled on repair and maintenance of public buildings, highways and engineering services.

It recognises that term works and services offer a relatively stable working relationship and thereby the ideal opportunity for investment in team-working and measured improvement. Service providers are happier if they know what hoops they have to jump through to earn an extended relationship, and would rather meet these challenges than simply run a “flat line” arrangement culminating in an unexplained notice of termination.

Term partnering relationships are by no means simple, and TPC2005 describes a range of processes that can be used to achieve added value – including value management, value engineering, training and employment initiatives and the improvement of IT. It links these to key milestones under a partnering timetable and also to risk management actions under a risk register.

If things start to go wrong, TPC2005 uses the PPC2000 core group and early warning systems – on the basis that anyone who does not show up for a core group meeting does not get a vote. This has proved particularly effective in achieving a resolution of problems under PPC2000.

TPC2005 starts life with the benefit of a proven track record on major repairs and maintenance programmes. It remains to be seen how widely it is taken up by clients and teams who want to get the most out of the “other” 50% of the industry.

David Mosey is a partner in Trowers & Hamlins. This article was co-written with Andrew Vickery, and both authors co-wrote TPC2005