Transport for Buckinghamshire is a team of leading highways staff members carrying out all aspects of Public Highway works, engineering capability, innovation and customer care.
The team comprises employees with a vast spectrum of skills, delivering roles such as asset management specialists, project managers, maintenance engineers, designers, street lighting and IT specialists, system developers, stakeholder managers and many more.
The organisation provides a 24/7 response for the emergency services which can involve anything from the clearing of highways after accidents or car fires or even fly tipping on the carriageways to gritting the roads in winter.
This disaster response mechanism necessitates the team being on call 24/7 365 days a year and the importance of appropriate facilities to accommodate the team and equipment is vital.
The Amersham based team was enduring cold, damp, outdated cabins to work and operate from but when they were given permission to purchase a new series of portable units that could more adequately accommodate their needs they discovered that today’s portable units can provide clean, warm and comfortable living spaces.
From initial contact…
As soon as a client or potential client contacts Portable Offices, a team approach evaluates the likely contract needs and assesses which point of contact is the most appropriate for the client in question.
In the summer of 2018 Matt at Luton had an enquiry from an existing customer who was looking for a modular solution to replace a number of existing old cabins they had at one of their depots in Amersham.
Site visits play a vital role in assessing the full implications of the contract, including access routes, ground conditions, H & S.
Initially the project took a while to get going from the client’s side but then early in 2019 they wanted to move things forward so a site meeting was arranged to assess the site and discuss the initial proposal and client’s specific requirements in more detail.
The projects team manage all modular installations and removals and anything else the depots need assistance with.
We were aware of this project from the very early stages so had it on our radar (this is not always the case, on some projects the team might not get involved until the order has been received).
When we are involved at the early stages of a project it is highly beneficial as we can work with the sales teams and assist them with quoting, design, specification, any sub-contractor elements, and deal with any technical queries that may arise during the quotation stage, this in turn helps build relationships with our clients as we get to know them from the start and provide a high level of professional service throughout the project – from concept to handover.
On this project, the client (end user) was working in conjunction with the local council so there were a number of stakeholders involved as they had other contractors undertaking elements of the site works (at Portable Offices we can offer a turnkey solution and manage all the aspects of the project so the client can be assured that everything is taken care of and concentrate on their business, leaving us to do what we do best giving them complete piece of mind) so we covered the full details of the project to include:
- Building layout design, and specification
- Planning permission
- Building control
- Service connections (electric, foul, and water)
- Access details to comply with regs and meet DDA requirements
- Project programme
- Site H & S requirements
- CDM regulations
- Delivery & installation
- Crossover of any works between contractors
After the meeting we walked around and assessed the site to check access routes in / out for the delivery lorries (modular would normally be delivered fully supported on an articulated lorry) and the crane (are there any overhead cables, are we near any airports or railways lines when additional measures and approvals are required), we measured where the building was to be sited and agreed the best possible position.
From the meeting we went away with all the information and requoted based on the client’s final requirements, for the next few months there were various specification changes required and ongoing negotiations over the details then once everything had finally been agreed, we received the order so the project planning could begin.
Once the sales team receive an order and all the signed paperwork has been completed, the project is handed to the projects team to manage until everything is complete and handed over. The sales person is kept in the loop throughout the course of the project and would visit site on occasions depending on the duration and then complete the handover at the end so they can continue to develop their relationship with the client and provide additional support and guidance along the way (the best way to describe this is to put an arm around their shoulder or hold their hand throughout the experience to make them feel at ease).
Project planning – once we have been handed the project there are various elements that go into the planning of the project:
Programme, when can we deliver (taking into account the clients’ preferred requirements), availability of sub-contractors or our own staff, current workload and projects schedule, build time either from the factory if it’s a new build project or fit-out and refurbishment timescales if we are using second-hand buildings from within our existing fleet.
Pre-start & design freeze – as soon as an order is received we arrange to sit down with the client and have a pre-start meeting to finalise the details and ensure everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet.
Outside contractors – we have to looking to arrange visits and start placing orders / booking any contractors that may be involved within the project.
Drawings – part of the projects team responsibility is to ensure any project drawings are completed and issued to all the relevant stakeholders and keep everyone updated on any changes in these throughout the contract process.
Communication is key
Stakeholders involvement – we are accustomed to working and communicating with other stakeholders. On this project we were dealing with various consultants along with the local planning and building control departments to meet any specific requirements they insisted on whilst ensuring the end user secures a building suitable for their needs.
Internal factory build or fit-out – we would meet with the factory or yard supervisor and go through the detail of the building, any fit out requirements, building layouts, and costs associated with the project so we can ensure these are managed throughout and the build is kept on time and within budget.
On Ringway it was decided that the best solution for the project was to utilise a building within our existing fleet and also add an additional new module, built from new at the factory so it was crucial to ensure measurements, specification and the finer details were all covered so there were no issues when the modules arrived at site and were installed at a later date.
Turnaround & Health & Safety
Once the fit out / build is underway (a typical lead time for a modular building fit out or new build is around 6-8 weeks but this can be achieved faster or take longer depending on the scope of works required) we would start to collate the Health & Safety documentation (COSHH, Risk Assessments, Method statements) that needs to be issued to ensure we comply with current legislation and the CDM regulations 2015 along with any clients site specific requirements they may have. The Construction Phase Plan which contains all the relevant H & S documentation for the project is issued a couple of weeks in advance of the installation to allow time to be reviewed and amended if necessary.
We liaise with the client throughout the course of the fit out / build time and keep them updated on progress. Within the programme running concurrently is the onsite enabling works (foundations, and service connection preparation) that may be being undertaken by us or as in this project the clients own contactors so we will also liaise with them and check the foundations a week prior to delivery to ensure there will problems on the day of installation.
Variations, on projects things inevitably change and this needs to be managed effectively as to minimise any impact on the project (fit out, lead times, or costs). When this happens we manage any variations using a cost tracker to keep a record of any additional costs and specifications agreed with the client.
In Safe Hands
On the day of installation, once any initial site inductions and H & S briefings have taken place, the crane will set up ready for the modules to arrive at planned scheduled intervals and the building installed. The onsite works are overseen by one of our projects supervisors (or project managers) to ensure everything is completed safely and to plan. Over the course of the reminder of the project programme the onsite internal fit out will be completed, and service connections made to the building, M & E elements are commissioning and tested before the building has a final clean prior to be handed over to the client.
From the time of receiving the order for the Ringway Jacobs project on 15th March, we refurbished and fitted out existing second-hand modules, built new modules, installed the building, completed the onsite fit out and associated works and handed over the building on Friday 3rd May (within 7 weeks) to a very happy customer.
Once a project is complete we will evaluate how well it went and look at any possible areas we can improve on with a view to provide an even better level of service to our customers in the future.
The Customer’s Assessment: Transport for Buckinghamshire (Ringway Jacobs)
Transport for Buckinghamshire’s Area Manager, Rosie Taylor, explains: “Our sister company had used Portable Offices previously and gave us a recommendation. As soon as we contacted Luton office, Matt Calloway sprang into action.
“He mapped out all the possibilities to us and made it so easy. Within a week plans were drawn up and it all happened so quickly.
“We purchased five units that are all linked. These provide office space, fitted kitchens, canteen, washrooms with showers and toilets and we even have a superb meeting room, something we have never had before.
“Everything was fitted out with modern fitments, led lighting, carpets etc. They are warm, comfortable contemporary spaces with air conditioning units. We have seen a whole different side to portable buildings and are delighted with them. It was a totally smooth, seamless process and Portable Offices just made it so easy.”