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Partnering is not a technique – it’s an attitude.  An attitude born of the belief that more can be achieved in an atmosphere of co-operation and trust than can be achieved in one of suspicion and conflict.

David Miles and Partners have always partnered; long before Egan.  It was instrumental in the development of the Practice in the early 1980’s and has sustained it through times of recession.

Not called ‘partnering’ back then was the simple view that to understand what a client required (not always what a client wanted) meant getting to understand that client (the organisation and the people) and operating as an extension to the client’s business.  At times it meant behaving like a satellite office.

As a Social Housing Specialist in Mechanical and Electrical Services this necessarily encompassed resident consultation, which inevitably required an understanding of residents’ views and proffered guidance (sometimes firm) to ensure that correct technical solutions were not compromised.

Whilst this approach would result in a satisfactory design it was worth little without involving a contractor willing to approach the work in a similar spirit of co-operation for mutual benefit.

Even in the 1980’s there were (and still are) a number of specialist M & E installers prepared to work with client and consultant without reverting to the formal, written, conventional contract document.  The approach was simple, with one or two initial review meetings followed by continuous dialogue and flexibility to achieve prompt completion within budget whilst minimising disruption.

Notwithstanding this apparently informal approach all significant decisions were recorded to provide an audit trail for subsequent examination.

This approach of ‘co-operation, not contention’ has been applied whenever possible with, in the main, any errors and omissions by any party accommodated by the ‘team’ overall.

This last 25+ years of experience in the social housing market has identified some key elements to successful partnering.

  • True specialists in the field must be used.  This applies to all types of consultant and contractor / sub-contractor.  They must have experience and a good track record.
  • Whilst a firm or organisation must have a stated commitment to co-operation this is of little value unless the personnel on the ground are at least equally committed and are fully supported by their management.
  • Risk sharing must be understood by all parties and accepted by all, including the client.
  • ‘Added Value’ pre-construction comes from really knowing what is required and delivering the appropriate design solution.  This is based in experience and being a true social housing specialist (as well as a general practitioner).

Some particular techniques have proved useful in encouraging contractors to ‘add-value’.

  • Requiring an installer to undertake, say, 3 years defects rectification, service and maintenance following contract completion, with the enlightened seeing this as additional income in exchange for a better quality product / materials.
  • Writing service and maintenance contracts for extended periods to give the contractor ‘guaranteed’ turnover in return for reduced unit costs.  

What has been learned over the years?

  • Partnering isn’t new.  It’s ‘getting along’ to mutual benefit, even when it sometimes means compromise. It relies on people, not contracts.
  • It is, understanding that everyone has problems and working together as a team to resolve them.
  • It’s not a culture of ‘no blame’.  It’s more a culture of ‘no recrimination’.
  • More recently, within formal and informal ‘structured’ partnering arrangements, the use of a Partnering Advisor within the team has proved useful.  This ‘independent’ member of the team can take the ‘chair’ with all active members feeling ‘equal partners’. 

What is our experience of ‘partnering’ in its current sense?

Major projects include:-

  • Full partner in a £18m new build development for Stadium H.A.
  • Informal partnering with Southern Homes, and others, on a stock transfer regeneration project in Hackney. Here, the client team, design team and three separate contractors worked together to deliver a quality product.
  • A five-year programme of lift service, maintenance, repair and renewal for Hyde Southbank Homes.
  • Decent Homes packages (total £45m) for various estates in L B Islington (2005-2010)

The high enquiry level of previous years is maintained with “partnering” in all sorts of forms apparent.

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5 Holgate Court, Western Road,
phone: 01708 729070
Romford, Essex RM1 3JS fax: 01708 755024