Building on Success – The Way Forward for PFI Schemes

by David Hooson-Jones, Lead Director

Private Finance Initiatives (PFI) to many have had a troubled past. However, the facts are clear in that a vast amount of PFI contracts will reach expiration within the next 10 years. Plenty of time to sort out, you would think… Well not exactly.

The Infrastructure and Projects Authority are recommending that authorities plan for hand back at least seven years in advance of the expiration date and within that seven-year period at year three recommend for the final asset surveys to have been delivered. As complex as the original contracts were, the need to ensure that obligations have been met and what happens after the hand back process needs careful and thorough planning, implementation, and action to ensure successful outcomes.

With over 56 years industry experience as an independent property and construction consultancy, the Watts business has always been centred on a deep understanding of our clients and is built on the strength of our long and trusted relationships. Our involvement through the lifecycle of PFI’s from their inception, through to the actual use of an asset with activities such as compliance reviews and asset condition surveys, defect rectification, to now expiration services has provided us with a proven track record in delivering outstanding PFI services, which includes support for the meticulous preparation needed.

Putting This Into Practice

Working in an occupied building whether it be a hospital or school has demanded a high degree of co-ordination and mobilisation with surveyors working around the day-to-day activities of occupants and targeting key dates in term times or out of hours and non-operational periods.

The absolute need to have an eye for detail when reviewing the vast amount of contractual documentation and due diligence of future maintenance plans as well as the review of previous plans and help desk information is crucial to ultimately build up a picture of the buildings in-use performance.

Furthermore, reviewing whether there is residual life expectancy required after the expiry date and what condition the asset needs to be at hand back is crucial for project success. Typically, this is a Condition B which is often defined as ‘satisfactory performing as intended but exhibiting minor deterioration’ or ‘sound, operationally safe and exhibiting minor deterioration’. However, what does a condition B actually mean? Especially when applied to assets that are some 20+ years old and having to review at a granular level, with building elements, finishes and fixtures and fittings. It is therefore imperative to ensure structured implementation and common definitions across multiple survey teams against the original PFI contract terms. This can be achieved through interpretation guides defining the benchmark at various levels across an asset. 

Our Experience

We’ve been deeply involved in various projects over the duration of PFI for instance engaging in CDC data collection for Building Schools for the Future (BSF), to assist in the survey programme to establish the condition of existing buildings and prepare planned maintenance schedules. Helping to identify key expenditure for the schools’ authorities and providing key information to enable wider prioritisation of funding allocation and budgeting to allow for new PFI school sites.

Addressing defects and undertaking a full review of the Employers Requirements,  relevant standards, design information and site surveys. Meticulous reviews noting derogations from the standards, whilst simultaneously highlighting immerging contributing factors. Our involvement has in many cases led to successful repair and conclusion of the wider dispute against the PFI.

“Our team’s construction knowledge is far-reaching from modern town halls and schools to leisure centres and hospitals, encompassing various property types. Our profound understanding of PFI schemes, modern construction methods, ESG practices, and defects analysis ensures that we always offer expert, professional guidance and provide peace of mind at every stage of the PFI project life cycle. I am proud to lead our dynamic team of surveyors who are dedicated to PFI success.”

David Hooson-Jones BSc (Hons) MRICS – Lead Director Manchester Building Surveying

David Hooson-Jones BSc (Hons) MRICS
Lead Director

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