Downtown Manchester recently hosted an informative and collaborative roundtable lunch at Banyan Corn Exchange, entitled ‘Manchester Property Club – Education Sector’ in association with Procure Partnerships Framework and Kier Group. DIB was joined by Founder and Director of Procure Partnerships Framework, Robbie Blackhurst, who led the discussion on development projects and management within the education sector, how the nature and scale of these projects have changed over the last two years due to the pandemic, and the government’s Construction Playbook.
Robbie began the discussion by reflecting on changes in the higher education sector. ‘Higher education was a core sector four years ago, it was up there with local authorities’. However, both Brexit and COVID brought major changes and challenges for universities; the former inciting nervousness due to the potential loss of a large number of international students, and the latter evidently leaving many wondering how universities would carry on with their business given the move to distance learning.
Robbie explained that higher education schemes have ‘gone back to the drawing board’ and that there has been a major shift from construction to a focus on the design perspective on projects. ‘There will be lots of change in what we see in the higher education’ Robbie stated, as he reiterated that there are large focuses on redesign of current buildings and assets rather than massive expansion due to the lack of demand for large learning spaces and lecture theatres after the pandemic.
Discussion also focused on the government’s guidance document, The Construction Playbook. Robbie explained that the Construction Playbook will ‘no longer by advisory but mandated therefore you will need to prove that you apply the principles of the playbook’. There was recognition that since the last drafting two years ago, a lot of things have changed. Although Robbie concluded that the Construction Playbook has the same fourteen outcomes and four key areas, he advised that there are new principles that clients will have to prove they use. Some points he touched on were outcome-based specifications, standardisation of design and conflict resolution. Furthermore, he advised to ‘encourage public sector clients to take on more risk’ in order to reap commercial benefits.
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