Q. How has the pandemic affected business across your asset management team so far?
The assets that we manage include a number of primary health centres and community hospitals as well as the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton. We also have a large portfolio of schools who have been supporting vulnerable children and also those of key workers. Our facilities have therefore been very much part of the national response
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, I’m proud to say that my team at Kajima Partnerships has ensured all of our operational PPP/PFI facilities have remained open into the third national lockdown.
Our facilities provide over 30,000 pupil and student places, almost 700 care and extra care spaces, more than 300 hospital beds, four fire stations and three libraries as well as offices and work spaces for thousands of essential workers, and so it’s been imperative that we were able to continue managing these spaces, making them available for use, right from the very start of the outbreak.
Q. What positives are you taking from 2020?
At the start of the pandemic, NHS England occupied Brentwood Community Hospital in partnership with NHS Property Services (NHSPS) to change the use of the hospital from a 50-bed community hospital into a 125-bed COVID-19 Hub. The transformation involved administrative areas in the hospital being cleared and converted into ward areas in order to accommodate potential COVID-19 patients. Physical modifications were made to parts of the hospital to ensure infection control throughout, such as installing additional sinks and replacing carpeted areas with non-porous finishes.
Implementing this type of change within a PFI can be problematic due to the large number of interested parties but we were determined from the outset that this would not be a barrier to reacting quickly to the changing needs of the hospital. Our role is very much about coordinating these parties to ensure the right outcome without compromising individual interests.
I have been impressed by the incredible flexibility my team have shown, further proving their ability to adapt to the strangest of situations. Managing facilities, client relationships, suppliers and partners remotely has been very different but they have taken all this in their stride. The team itself, often used to working remotely on their own projects, have also got to know each other much better through regular video calls and have had an insight into each other’s daily lives that probably would not have happened otherwise.
Q. What will your business do differently post COVID?
With the help of our FM partners, clients and lending banks we have been able to implement a host of changes at a number of our facilities quickly in order to react to Government guidelines and accommodate ever-changing restrictions, including additional cleaning, changes to building access routes, screening and segregation, providing additional washing facilities etc. In record time and with minimum disruption to business as usual, we’ve adapted operational processes to make work and school life safer and more efficient for those who were unable to simply stay at home. If all parties demonstrate the same flexibility going forwards then change and adaptation will be much easier to achieve in the future
In addition, as our facilities are spread all over England, Scotland and Northern Ireland our travel and environmental impact has been dramatically reduced as a result of the pandemic. Whilst there will always be a place for face to face meetings, collaboration and site visits there is no doubt that a good deal of the day to day aspects of our business can be more than adequately completed without extensive travel and time away from home.