If you have formed the opinion that partnering works better as theory than practice, take a look at these two schemes. Both show how profit and product can be radically improved by the application of partnering
Pollards Hill estate, Merton, south London
Higgins Construction started work on the £37m Pollards Hill Estate in the south London borough of Merton contractor three years ago. To help it organise its supply chain, Higgins brought in Impart Links, an independent partnering consultancy. Together, they instituted partnering workshops for all contractors in the supply chain, at which everyone had a chance to suggest ways to improve the construction process.

The project involves the refurbishment of 950 homes, which have been completed ahead of schedule, and the construction of 100 new ones. More than a quarter of a million pounds were shaved off the budget in the project's first year. Many of these gains were the result of actions inspired by the partnering workshops, and involved the advancement of programme timings for different work trades. For example, combi boiler installations for the refurbishments were programmed together as a single stage by contractor Abbey Site & Property Services, which also generated better discounts by purchasing the kit in one bulk supply order.

"The large scale of the project not only required a clear establishment of the partnering culture, but also a long-term commitment to maintain the essential spirit of partnering as different subcontractors come on board," says Hugh Raven of Impart Links. "The project team recently identified a number of development sites which are enabling the construction of a further 34 homes on the back of the main partnering contract. This will provide further enhancements to the estate, including decant accommodation to speed up the programme, thereby creating a win–win outcome for all."

The contractor is working on the construction of 40 new homes. More than 5000 people live on the estate, which was transferred four years ago from the Merton council to the Pollards Hill Housing Association, which is a subsidiary of Moat Housing Group. The modernisation programme is funded by the Estates Renewal Challenge Fund, Housing Corporation grant, Single Regeneration Budget and private finance sources.

Project team
Client: Pollards Hill Housing Association
Main contractor: Higgins Construction
Architect: HTA Architects
Quantity surveyor: Citex Bucknall Austin
Partnering workshop facilitator: Impart Links

Twin valley homes, blackburn
Kitchen and bathroom refits are being combined with responsive maintenance in a partnering contract between Blackburn housing association Twin Valley Homes and contractor Wates' social housing and maintenance divisions. The contractor has just entered a £13.5m contract with the housing association to upgrade and maintain 2600 homes, about a quarter of its total stock, over a 42-month period.

"The interrelationship between capital works and maintenance will produce cost benefits," says Mike Furze, head of Wates' maintenance division. "Planning budgets with the housing association will produce savings and the involvement of the supply chain will add value. We also have the opportunity to streamline the administration process through IT."

A significant cost in maintenance work is incurred by travelling to and from individual homes to carry out repairs. Wates will be looking to make savings by co-ordinating planned and responsive maintenance. "If someone has a sticking door, and a team is due to call in a week to carry out planned maintenance, then the planned maintenance team might be able to deal with the door when it calls," says Keith Henderson, construction manager with Wates' social housing division. "Similarly, if responsive maintenance staff are stretched because of the uplift in call-outs in the winter, we will be able to move planned maintenance staff across to help out. We'll be able to maximise the benefits of the two workforces and minimise downtime."

The maintenance service, accessible to tenants 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, is made up of a core team of 15-18 multiskilled and trade-specific operatives. Tenants requiring repairs telephone Twin Valley Homes' central call centre where staff have been trained to use Wates' maintenance software, and can arrange a repair appointment there and then. If that call is an emergency, then details of the tenant and the problem requiring repair will be immediately sent to operatives, who are all equipped with handheld computers on which they receive instructions and log their work.

Central to keeping the work flowing is the contractor's IMPACTxp software from Matrix Resource Management. "Traditionally maintenance has been a very paper-intensive process," says Furze. The software transforms it into an electronic process, the information being distributed via managed mobile data network operator, Cognito.