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Making the Leadenhall Building fit for purpose

06 February 2018

Firmly established as one of the most notable buildings in the City of London, the Leadenhall Building (informally known as the cheesegrater) provides a striking visual impression, towering over the nearby structures.

It has been managed by Broadgate Estates property director Angelo Christou for nearly four years, who tells PFM how pleased he was to take over nine months prior to the building’s practical completion (PC) in July 2014.

“There is so much to do to set up a building before it can actually be workable and you also have marketing visits and you have occupiers who have already agreed the lease and are ready to fit out,” he says.

“And as a management company you also need to set up your office, etc, so we make sure we get involved early now and that we have good relationships with the contractors and owners.”

Broadgate Estates was contracted by joint developers British Land (owner of Broadgate Estates) and Oxford Properties to manage the building, which was sold to Chinese property developer C C Land last year.

The company has been retained to continue to manage the site, which can be seen as a further endorsement of the team’s success.

Making the most of his nine months prior to PC, Mr Christou was determined “to hit ground running” and had signed five major contracts with service providers well before PC.

He also interviewed each of the 95 team members recruited to assist in the running of the Leadenhall Building, beginning with the posts of engineering and building manager.

He additionally emphasises the need to confirm contracts with key service providers for mechanical and electrical (M&E), reception, security, cleaning and lift maintenance.

“All of these have to be tendered, we don’t just award a contract to the service partner, regardless of the relationship we have with them,” says Mr Christou. “We typically go out [to tender] to five service partners in each specialist area,” he continues.

“In addition to providing all relevant details and supporting information, each service provider is offered at least one tour of the building in order to fully understand our aims and objectives.”

Key contracts have been awarded to Incentive Lynx for security, Optimum Group for M&E, JPC Cleaning and Sanderson – respectively providing horizontal and vertical cleaning – and Portico for reception services.

Securing the five key contracts prior to PC put Broadgate Estates “in a fantastic position”, says Mr Christou, and allowed it to focus on other key areas to prepare the Leadenhall Building to deliver the high standards expected in a world class facility of this type.

IT, telephone systems, furniture and interior decoration within the basement offices were all quickly installed and completed, allowing the building management team to prepare for the fit out and arrival of the first tenants.

In addition to a strong front of house team to support occupiers and their fit out contractors, Mr Christou says it is essential that each team member is interviewed to ascertain they have the correct behaviours and culture, in addition to their skill sets.

“When you can do that, that’s when you can really establish a one team ethos where all expectations and aims are aligned to meet all customer service elements,” he says.

Endorsement of this practice was perhaps surprisingly provided by the managing director of a competitor, who praised the Leadenhall Building for providing “the best meet and greet team experience he had ever seen”.

Advance preparation can be seen to have played a significant role during the fit out process. At one time, approximately 60% of the building was being prepared for its new occupiers and resulted in a situation described as “seriously challenging, yet very exciting” by Mr Christou.

Understanding the high level of logistics activities requiring support, the decision was made to adjust the number of front of house security members in order to create a transition team to work alongside them and assist with the high level of activity, including deliveries and access to lifts and allow contactors to meet tight deadlines.

“Once the fit out is complete, you reduce your transition team and increase your security team, but this allowed us to make our new occupiers feel welcome from the first point of contact, whilst maintain excellent relationships with all stakeholders,” he explains.

Contingencies were also put in place for nearly all aspects of the building’s management processes during the frenetic fit out phase, to ensure that a rapid and effective response would be provided in all instances.

“Time is money and if you delay the fit out contractors there may be a cost implication which they would look to recover and compensation costs could run into tens of thousands of pounds.”

However, systems were also put in place to ensure that every activity was recorded – including lift waiting and journey times – providing a clear picture of all movements and showing that no hindrance resulted from issues within the building.

Further emphasising the high levels of customer service provided on site, Mr Christou says that while it is not possible to “say yes to every request, we always try to offer an alternative solution rather than just saying ‘no’. I always say to my team: ‘Take your building manager hat off and put your occupier hat on and then ask yourself the same question, would your response remain the same?’

“The building operates 24 hours and 365 [days a year] so it’s inevitable that there will be challenges,” he continues.

“But it’s how you manage those challenges and communicate with your occupiers and keep them up to speed with how you’re managing it.”

Fire and security are two main areas of focus for the building, with sophisticated systems and processes in place to react appropriately to any situation.

Due to the building being the second tallest in the City of London, Mr Christou says that they have to constantly be aware of security risks, including terrors threats and more recently urban climbers and explorers, who will try almost anything to access the building and high level roof areas for publicity purposes.

In addition to equipping all security and service partner personnel with two-way wi-fi radios, the building has established a platform that includes groups of relevant contacts, all of whom can be instantly sent an alert “at the push of a button”, providing another means of quick reaction to emerging issues.

Linked to both the one team approach and the drive for high levels of customer service, Mr Christou has also established a ‘don’t walk by’ culture, where every team member is encouraged to report anything that requires attention, regardless of whether this is in their specialist area or not.

Additional focus is also being devoted to areas including waste segregation to increase recycling rates and air quality.

The latter, conducted in partnership with Lambeth Council, Transport for London and CoL, has seen personal deliveries slowly phased out to reduce vehicle activity.

“Property managers need to think smarter in order to help the environment, which often leads to them saving money if they action this collaboratively and effectively,” says Mr Christou.

“With today’s technology we have no excuse not to be working much smarter, cleaner and more efficiently.”

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