HM Treasury GOGGS Building
"Previously, there was a mentality that maintenance could be put off until it was unavoidable but with the PPP, the concessionaire has to hand the building back in an equivalent state as at handover! It's no longer a case of simply repairing, but maintaining it on a continual basis. This must be good value for money."
Paul Pegler, responsible for Facilities Contracts Management at the Treasury
Since 1940, the Treasury Building has been based in the building known as Government Offices Great George Street, GOGGS, in Whitehall. GOGGS was designed and built between 1898 and 1917 and has largely been untouched since it was built. GOGGS is steeped in history - in the build up to the 2nd World War, the government used the basement for their map room and a Cabinet room. It was chosen for the strength of the concrete frame that would prevent the collapse of the building should it receive a direct bomb hit. Within months, the departments in the basement included the Air Ministry and their main War Room.
The PPP Forum interviewed Paul Pegler, responsible for Facilities Contracts Management at the Treasury and project sponsor for the PFI which rehoused them in the refurbished Western end of the building.
The Treasury was previously based on two sites, Parliament HQ and a small office block in Victoria. The HQ building was almost completely cellular which was inhibiting face to face contact. What has been the response to the new building?
"It's a fantastic environment and occupants have been very complimentary about what we have achieved. People can meet up more easily now for impromptu meetings. They also seem to like the relaxed setting in the restaurant or internet café/shop and I often see small groups holding their meetings here - the Chancellor often comes down with his team! We did not have facilities in the Eastern end which would encourage this level of interaction."
The previous layout was said to be inefficient due to the use of cellular plans. Has the new building remedied this problem?
"Yes, we thought there might be some resistance from senior grades but in practice, the move to a more open environment has been universally welcomed. We now have a very flexible layout, with plenty of breakout space within the open plan. Rooms retained around the perimeter have been transformed into team working spaces rather than offices for individuals. We put a lot of time into the change management process so we could meet people's needs and we are now reaping the rewards of those efforts."
The building is Grade 2* listed and was constructed nearly a century ago. Was the concessionaire careful in keeping true to its original materials?
"Oh yes. We retained a lot of what was here. The windows are original and where there was a need to repair or replace Portland stone, the concessionaire went to great lengths to verify the source. We now have the best of both worlds with a modern working environment which has kept its character and historical traits."
As early as October 2000, space was being planned and work was done with colleagues across the organisation using pilot groups to ensure that the layout and technology complemented each other. How has this helped?
"It has been tremendously useful. We undertook a pilot study to replicate as far as practicable what they would be moving to so they could get used to the open plan. We engaged the people a lot and spent a great deal of time discussing every aspect of the project in numerous forums so we could explore how people felt about the new building. Their comments fed into the design process. We explored the different options for the space in terms of blocking (where directorates are kept together on the same floor), or stacking (vertical integration). Once we had worked out the overall space allocation, each directorate decided how the space would be laid out so there was a real feeling of ownership."
The building was delivered 1 month early. Were there any problems?
"Not really. We were able to use all the facilities from day 1. There have inevitably been a few teething problems but we enjoy a very good relationship with the concessionaire on both a business and personal level and so we work together to resolve these issues. If anything, the problem we didn't anticipate was how proud people would be of the building and the enthusiasm now to bring in visitors and to hold numerous conferences/meetings here. Previously, meetings would often be held at other locations but now we have this modern facility, people are making intensive use of it. Other departments have also held some meetings here too."
I understand that the structure of the building is basically sound but there have been problems with water penetration. Has the problem been resolved?
"We did have problems but we had an effective method of extraction which the concessionaire has maintained. I believe the solution to be the right one but now the onus is no longer on me to keep check on it. Afterall, it's the concessionaires' responsibility and risk if anything goes wrong."
There has been some concern over the air conditioning system and the use of HFCs that the government has been warning architects, builders and its own managers not to use because it is grossly damaging to the environment. What is your response to such accusations?
"The air conditioning chillers installed were procured by Exchequer Partnership in May 2000. At the time of development of the brief and detailed design for the building the use of refrigerant containing HFCs was in accordance with the accepted industry best practice and fully in line with Government and international environmental and energy policy. The refurbishment has been independently assessed under the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method and has been awarded an Excellent rating."
Do you feel your relationship with the concessionaire has changed in any way since completion?
"No, the key players are largely the same. I think continuity is vital in the beginning stages. If anything the relationship has grown and become stronger as we work together to resolve issues as they arrive in the occupation phase."
The contract is for 35 years. The needs of the Treasury are going to change in that time. Do you think that the contract is flexible enough to accommodate those changes?
"I think the current layout is very flexible with a good mix of open plan, breakout space and rooms. We realise that the size of the organisation might change and working practices are certainly going to change over time with more people working from home in an effort to improve their work/life balance. In the future, we may have to consider more innovative ways of accommodating people, such as more touch-down areas and hot-desking. I feel confident, however, that the contract and the concessionaire are both sufficiently flexible to accommodate making these adjustments."
The building had little work done since its construction a century ago. Are you concerned about the state in which the building will be returned?
"No. If anything, I think it I will be better. Previously, there was a mentality that maintenance could be put off until it was unavoidable but with the PPP, the concessionaire has to hand the building back in an equivalent state as at handover! It's no longer a case of simply repairing, but maintaining it on a continual basis. This must be good value for money."
The performance monitoring is quite detailed. How have you managed?
"It's early days and I think the method of performance monitoring will evolve as we refine it with the concessionaire. I am working with our internal audit team in looking at getting the best out of the system. At the moment, I would say that we are reasonably comfortable with the way things are progressing. Treasury staff are not backward in coming forward and will make sure that they keep the concessionaire on its toes in delivering the service we are paying for."
How has your job changed?
"My team is now much smaller. We were originally a team of about 9 or 10 and we are now down to 4 people concentrating on contract management. At the moment, this seems adequate but we continue to review this. My job hasn't become easier, but it has changed a great deal - more challenging! My task is less hands on and has become more of an audit role. The great thing is that I am now able to spend more time with the users and can therefore be more responsive to their requirements. Where time was spent previously on running around to chase up the resolution of maintenance problems my focus is now on improving customer care."
Would you change anything?
"No, I think the success depended a lot on the commitment of the people involved and their willingness and desire to work together in an open and honest relationship. It's inevitable that at times the going will get tough, however a project is procured, but the team here is strong enough to keep the success story going. And the end result is we have a much better environment and people are a lot happier coming to work here."