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EXCLUSIVE Royal Parks: A Right Royal Clean-Up

Author : David Strydom

04 October 2013

How The Royal Parks and Vinci Facilities work together to ensure planned preventative maintenance takes precedence

On 1 October 2007 Vinci Facilities secured a five-year contract, worth £38.5m, with The Royal Parks, which was subsequently extended by two years and which is due to end on 28 September 2014. The contract includes several Royal Parks such as Bushy Park, Green Park, Greenwich Park, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Richmond Park, Regents Park and St James’s Park, but also Primrose Hill, Brompton Cemetery, Victoria Tower Gardens and Grosvenor Square.

The contract entails planned and reactive works to 37,000 assets, and the service scope covers all fixed assets incorporating but not limited to electrical, mechanical, fountains, statues and monuments, playgrounds, roads and footpaths, lodge dwellings, toilet blocks, corporate offices, walls, fences and railings, and support with Park events. In addition, Vinci undertakes projects up to a value of approximately £500,000.

The service provider has 41 representatives at The Royal Parks and, by all accounts, there could be no better place to work owing to ‘the variety of jobs and the amazing surroundings’. Those jobs have, in the recent past, included the restoration of the Queen Victoria Memorial outside Buckingham Palace and de-silting of the lake in St James’s Park, both carried out in conjunction with The Royal Parks.

Although some of the tasks are relatively straightforward, some require a fair amount of skill and patience – the de-silting process, for instance. ‘’Rather than take the silt offsite in many lorries, we reduced its volume using geotextile tubes about 4.5m in diameter and 20m long – a new product for the Parks,’’ says Vinci account manager, Michael Leigh. ‘’As part of the process we added water to the silt, then treated the mixture with a flocculent that allowed separation of the silt from the water once it had been pumped into the geotextile tubes.’’

This environmentally friendly approach meant once the silt had dewatered, The Royal Parks made minimal use of the lorries and their movements. At the time the product was little used in the UK, but the process taught them much about alternative desilting methods in order to reduce the impact of lorry movements on the environment.

Another task undertaken by Vinci is going to the top of Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens where staff undertake maintenance inspections in order to access the loft space. The inspections include structural surveys and binocular surveys in order to ascertain what conservation works are required.

The FM contract for The Royal Parks originally belonged to Taylor Woodrow, which was bought out by Vinci in September 2008. ``Although we have a core team of 41 who make up the delivery project, we bring in extra personnel when there are variations to the contract,'' says Adele Bowman, senior commercial manager at Vinci. ''When the contract started six years ago, the whole team with the exception of four was TUPE'd across from previous managing agents or subcontractors who worked on behalf of The Royal Parks.''

Vinci has partners but Bowman says most - about 80% - of the services are delivered in-house. ''There are specialist elements such as fire-alarm servicing which is a niche market and we use partners to help us deliver. We also use our supply chain with respect to fire extinguishers and lifts.''

Historically, when procuring their maintenance providers The Royal Parks had sought to retain ownership of all assets and ultimately all risk. They challenged this strategy and invested in a new approach when tendering our contract. Their approach to transfer all risk and ownership of all assets to their FM provider was untested but has proved to be a success.

“It was a leap of faith when they took us on,” says Leigh. “We had a remit to ensure when we fix something, we fix it properly the first time; we don’t put sticking plasters on it. We made recommendations that they replace certain items; yes, you need to change your boilers, don’t wait for them to fall over. We’ve brought proactivity to this and we’ve educated our guys so when they fix something it’s done properly.”

Vinci has introduced 'major efficiencies', Bowman says, by reducing reactive maintenance works in the parks. ``In the first year we logged 4500 incidents; last year it was down to 3813. We've done that by investing in the right products and reacting to what the client needs in a much more efficient way.''

Leigh says potholes, fallen walls or lampposts knocked over by cars are all examples of the types of things to which Vinci has to respond. ‘’We have a 24-hour call-out service, so we can responded immediately.’’

St James's Park is the most challenging park, Bowman says. ''It has many ceremonies and high profile events such as Trooping the Colour that pose logistical challenges. And it's subject to significant footfall, not just from people visiting it but also those simply passing through. All the parks have their challenges but based solely on the size of the park relative to footfall, it has to be St James's.''

With so much water around in the Royal Parks - from the manmade lakes to the fountains - there's bound to be issues and challenges. ``When the sun comes out, the ornamental fountains suffer from algae growth which can become an issue,'' Leigh explains. ‘’And then there are the leaves that block things up in autumn and winter.’’ Our operations team has spent time investigating products that can sustain the consistency of the water quality and assisting us in keeping them clear. We have a team that are responsible for the maintenance and there is a difficulty in scheduling the planned maintenance through the ever-changing nature and its unpredictability throughout the year.

Bowman says she strives every day to ensure each pound spent on The Royal Parks is spent wisely. ``We're always challenging ourselves to get the best value, and everybody is passionate about what they do. For me it's about knowing that when we go to the client to say we'd like them to invest X amount of money on a feature, we know that what we're recommending is the best value they can get.''

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