Winner — Flintshire council and Blue Green Architects

This highly successful partnership has been in business for the past eight years. Blue Green is a subsidiary of David McLean contractors, and the relationship emerged from a similar deal between the parent and Shell UK. This deal has had a fairly spectacular payoff for Blue Green, which has developed into a RIBA and ACE registered practice numbering 50 professionals, and the work has evolved from industrial and commercial to include multistorey student accommodation, hotels and apartments. The partnership has now dealt with more than 400 applications, and has at one time or another involved discussions with most of the 376 local authorities in England and Wales. Although the partnership is focused on the design element of the work, the council is closely involved when a complex or innovative design is carried out, and the fruits of their research are shared with other councils and contractors.

The finalists

City and County of Swansea and James & Nicholas

James & Nicholas, a civil and structural consultancy founded back in 1970, entered into a partnership agreement with Swansea council in 2002. Since then, the two have worked on 59 projects, ranging from domestic works to multimillion-pound educational and health projects. There are obvious benefits to both parties from the partnership: familiarity breeds respect, as well as the chance to hone procedures until they are as efficient as the human brain can make them, from pre-submission meeting to all further design and construction stages. Jeoff Houler, a partner at James & Nicholas, said the whole process of working with building control has been “revolutionised”.

North Yorkshire council and Bramhall Blenkam

Bramhall Benkam is an architectural practice based in Malton. Unusually for North Yorkshire, the firm has pioneered cutting-edge designs using modern materials. North Yorkshire building control were asked to enter into a partnership with the architect about six years ago. The particular point about the partnership is demonstrated by the Sylvan Houses development, for which the architect used large areas of glazing, the better to make the most of the surrounding scenery. The council helped the designer to make the SAP calculations work out, and in so doing put in place a necessary condition for the success of the whole scheme.

South Holland council and GR Merchants

This is another example of the commercial and quality benefits that partnership brings. As well as the obvious one – making sure that the regulations are observed – it allows a small firm like GR Merchants to offer an attractive service to the national companies who undertake projects in its manor. And because of the national partnership authority scheme, GR Merchants can offer a single source to discuss, agree and negotiate on behalf of all local authorities. The result is one of those famous win-win situations: high-quality work undertaken with the lightest of regulatory touches.

Torbay council and Kay Elliott Architects

These two got together after the successful completion of a large redevelopment scheme in Torbay harbour, which included the Living Coasts aquatic visitor centre. As a practice, Kay Elliott’s work involves national and international projects, and the challenging designs have a global influence. All the more reason, therefore, to be reconciled with the Building Regulations. This process has been achieved by providing the practice with two officers as contacts, so that one is always available to discuss problems. Building control also visits the architect on a regular basis, and the two hold technical seminars to work out the effect of changes to the regulations.

Wandsworth council and Carey Jones Architects

This entry covers the Riverside Quarter on the south bank of the Thames, where a heavily polluted former oil terminal was rehabilitated and turned into huge mixed-use development. The notoriously difficult task of soil remediation was carried out without a hitch, and then the complex design, with its slight curvature and innovative structural system, was erected with maximum efficiency. Wandsworth building control employed external consultants to carry out the all-important job of checking the precast concrete columns that supported the riverfront elevations and the post-tensioned roof and floor slabs. The result was, as Thiru Moolan, head of building control at the council puts it, “the project has delivered remarkably effective solutions to all its challenges”.