Countdown to construction awards

Place continues its series revisiting winners from last year's North West Regional Construction Awards in the build-up to the 2011 ceremony in May. Here we look at the Client of the Year winner, St Helens Council.

The award was given to St Helens because judges felt that the council has established itself as a leader in collaborative procurement with innovative design and sustainability at the heart of its culture.

The award recognises clients with the drive to ensure that best practice principles are adopted on its projects and throughout its supply chain.

Contractor Willmott Dixon, which nominated the council for the award, has enjoyed a ten-year relationship with St Helens Council, during which time the local authority has broken from the traditional 'first-past-the-post' tendering process to fully partnered projects. It also redrafted its procurement strategy in 2003 to adopt rethinking construction principles.

As a result, St Helens Council was awarded government's Beacon status in the rethinking construction field, one of only six councils nationally and the only authority in the North West to do so.

The council continues to be recognised as a centre of excellence in construction procurement, sharing best practice with government bodies and international agencies.

The council has pioneered the use of integrated design teams and value engineering principles, insisting on creative sustainable solutions that eliminate waste and collaboration between designers and supply chain, which ensures affordability.

Projects led by the council have attracted high scores in national construction industry key performance indicators and have also benefited the local economy.

For example, Cowley Language College, completed in August 2009, saw more than 91% of the £15m sub-contract orders placed with businesses within a 30-mile radius of the building.

Hope Academy, a new build project for 1,350 11-16 pupils and 300 sixth-form students in Newton-le-Willows, is set for completion in September 2011 and, it is hoped, will be the first secondary school to achieve a BREEAM 'Outstanding' rating.

St Helens Council has shared its knowledge of collaborative procurement and partnering through roadshows, workshops and one-to-one briefings across the UK, with other councils, fire and police authorities, contractors and audit groups.

The council has been an active participant in government good practice publications and toolkits over the last ten years.

St Helens Council challenges the established construction rules and methods in the search for continuous improvement and is constantly reviewing its partnering arrangements. Existing partners are challenged to ensure new ideas are explored, best practice is captured and new knowledge is incorporated into projects.

The council has a constant improvement agenda that looks to embrace the best new ideas and to ensure that lessons are learnt from less successful elements are then not repeated.

At St Helens, contractors are selected on quality with a focus on out-turn costs and collaboration rather than initial costs. The council operates an open book policy where available budgets are visible to the partnering contractor.

 North West Regional Construction Awards 2011The black-tie awards ceremony and dinner will take place on Thursday 26 May 2011 at Chester Racecourse. Please email Caroline Ellison on or call 0161 448 2424. For further information about sponsorship opportunities please contact Emma Looskin on or on 0161 295 5076.

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