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Category Archives: Fit Out

All together, better – why collaboration is key

Building engineering principal contractor, JCA, looks at the critical importance of collaboration in construction projects, as well as the benefit to the future success of the construction sector.

 According to the Oxford English Dictionary, collaboration is defined as “the action of working with someone else to produce or create something.”

In the context of the construction industry, however, this could be considered something akin to the holy grail. It remains a hugely fragmented sector with lots of different companies, often unknown to one another, brought together to deliver a particular project, which then move on. Such fragmentation means that it takes a long time for best practice to filter through. For example, a particular project may see some innovation that could benefit the whole industry but this is lost at the end when the team disintegrates.

In an ideal world, a truly collaborative venture is where all parties focus on the delivery of a unified set of goals but generally, reality shows a different and more difficult route to completion. Typically, each party has differing objectives, despite a common outcome and these could be conflicting. Success for one party, therefore, could result in failure for another. For example, a project’s mechanical system might be deemed unfit for purpose, while its structural design is award-winning.

In short, while some degree of collaboration in construction is necessary for any project, the process is often a struggle involving competing sub-contractors, disconnected agendas, broken trust and poor communication. Worst case scenario is that a project is derailed and perhaps compounded by legal proceedings which, in certain high profile cases, leads to a public vilification of the construction sector.

In addition, the industry has had to grapple with a lot of wastage. Some owners, architects or designers might demand certain criteria in a building’s specification, such as environmental product declarations that require certain sustainability standards, yet there is a tendency for procurement teams or contractors to overlook or discount such requirements in their pursuit of short-term cost reduction.

New technology and sustainability-focused building standards such as BREEAM are, however, helping to break down the silo mentality in the construction process. Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), which advocates the collective harnessing of all participants’ expertise, is one approach that many in the industry think can make the process more joined up. A central aspect of IPD is Building Information Modelling (BIM) which can be a real force for collaboration, according JCA’s Key Account Director, David Johnson:

“BIM actively encourages the need for a co-operative, fully integrated approach to a project because it demands contractor involvement from the outset. As a digital model, changes to specifications and design can be viewed by all parties. The advent of email was detrimental to the construction sector as changes could be withheld but BIM makes the process more transparent and therefore more collaborative.”

Johnson advocates the use of BIM to deliver projects more smoothly, faster and more cost-effectively. Since 2016, all new public sector buildings must be developed using the technology but there is room for improvement in the wider industry, particularly on lower level projects, where contractors have not invested in such systems.

However, JCA recognises that technology on its own is not the whole solution. The need for the right people with the right skills and experience together with a shared vision and financial clarity are all key elements in successful delivery.

By way of an exemplar on the benefit of collaboration, Kao Data appointed JCA as its preferred Design and Build contractor for its first data centre. The approach was to be unique to the data centre industry for such a major development. Enabling the project to be engineering-led, the client benefitted from a design and construction process that was in harmony with the overall purpose of the facility and complementary to the mechanical, electrical and ancillary infrastructure services.

Kao and JCA undertook an open approach to encourage the free-flowing of ideas, high levels of project dynamism and problem solving to ensure the project was completed on time and on budget. Whilst there were multiple challenges that had to be overcome, the overarching principle of collaborative engagement enabled Kao to achieve its objective and take delivery of one the most advanced data centres anywhere in the world.

This was succinctly put by Paul Finch, Kao’s Chief Operating Officer:

“The collaborative engagement on Kao Data London One was unprecedented and should be championed by the industry to demonstrate that adversarial contracting on major developments is not the only option.”

This approach was a major factor in both JCA and Kao becoming finalists for the 2018 DCS Awards.

Click here for more information about JCA’s integrated approach.

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Blog – Examining workspace design trends

Leading commercial fit-out contractor, JCA, considers how flexibility, staff wellbeing and integration of technology have become major design factors in creating happy and productive office environments.

Workspace design is evolving at a rapid pace, as organisations compete to attract and retain the brightest and best talent at a time when the UK’s skilled labour pool is reducing.

Whereas in the past office design focused on the space itself, interior designers creating the latest workspaces are tasked with developing environments that provide staff with a holistic space that’s comfortable, healthy, promotes positive thinking and enables them to be as creative and productive as possible.

As we have become more pre-occupied with getting the right work/life balance, so employers are increasingly looking at designing workplaces which encourage, rather than restrict social interaction. In larger firms, the conventional office canteen, for example, is steadily being replaced by concepts such as ‘juice bars’ and ‘coffee stations’ in order to promote staff engagement and the exchange of ideas throughout the working day, rather than just providing a place to eat. In this sense, the line between work, home and social life is becoming increasingly blurred, as workspace design centres around both the physiological and emotional needs of employees, as well as being a place of business.

The need to provide more holistic workspace has been reflected in recent research by Office Genie. A survey of 1,500 workers found that almost three-quarters were not provided with an area to relax and 45% felt that the design of their office did not promote collaboration.  Of course, older offices are finding this a particular challenge, as they were never designed originally with collaboration in mind.

Although having open space at work is not a new concept, its design and location within the office is now a vital consideration, for giving staff an alternative space in which to take time out or be creative.  The open nature of these spaces is also essential in order to promote more collaboration, by making them visible and easily accessible.

Conventional meeting rooms are also being reconsidered with a growing trend of companies tearing down walls in order to promote a culture of teamwork, openness and transparency.  Enclosed rooms and cubicles are being replaced with social spaces and open ‘meeting zones’.  Such areas are often defined by divider panels made from natural materials such as bamboo, or sometimes display units, different floorcoverings and brightly coloured furnishings.

While workspaces have always provided dedicated rest areas for staff, some companies are looking to boost performance by creating ‘recharge spaces’ as a means of improving productivity. The thinking behind this trend reflects the simple concept that tired staff are less productive.  This idea has already gained traction with businesses in many sectors of industry, introducing everything from giant bean bags for power naps, meditation spaces, in-house gyms and even saunas.  And while some companies might see a recharge space as a luxury, firms such as Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Unilever are reaping the benefits of allowing the staff the time and space to recoup.

Use of colour, varying textures and finishes in the work environment have also taken prominence through the emergence of ‘biophilic’ office design, which articulates the relationship between nature, human biology and the built environment. It’s based on the principle that we have a genetic connection with the outside world, so for the benefit of our wellbeing, we should be bringing more natural elements such as wood and stone into the workspace.  As a result, use of natural materials has become another increasing trend, to include even the planting of trees in areas with high amounts of natural light. Bringing the outdoors indoors, therefore, is something of a mantra within the design community.

As our workplaces continue to evolve, it’s important to remember that design should be unique to a specific organisation, as opposed to a ‘one size fits all’ approach.  As a leading workspace fit-out and refurbishment contractor, JCA offers a complete bespoke service for all types of premises.

Click here for more information on our capabilities.

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JCA awarded major maintenance contract

Responsibility for maintaining the office locations of one of the UK’s biggest insurance businesses has been handed to leading building engineering, fit-out and maintenance specialist, JCA, following a competitive tender.

Starting this month, the contract covers more than 150,000 ft² at the company’s headquarters in the City of London, as well as satellite locations elsewhere in the capital and the South East.

A resident-based team of JCA maintenance personnel will provide round-the-clock support with responsibility for mechanical and electrical upkeep, fabric maintenance, reactive repairs and any other minor works.

Overseeing the new contract is Ian Coleman, Operations Director for JCA’s Managed Services Division, which has seen significant expansion of its onsite maintenance portfolio during 2017. He commented:

“JCA is proud to have such a major player in the global insurance market as a new client. With a reputation for engineering, fit-out and maintenance excellence, we anticipate further growth in resident-based service contracts during 2018. A number of large scale engineering projects, involving the installation and maintenance of critical infrastructure has also facilitated a recruitment drive for maintenance engineers.”

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