Secondment Placement

Savills Global Placement

Tom Burn 

Placement: University of Northampton
Dates: December 2013 to May 2014

Name: Tom Burn
Job Title: Graduate Surveyor
Graduate Scheme: Surveying, Birmingham
Start Date: November 2011

Tom joined the University of Northampton for a 6 month secondment placement in December. Tom's blog is below, so do have a read to find out more about his experience.

Week 22

My penultimate week with the University began with the monthly PAC meeting at the Park Campus. Mace had been invited to the meeting to discuss their update risk register, and how it was to be reported to the PAC on a monthly basis to provide them with the comfort that risks are being mitigated as the project moves on. The PAC were also updated with a 'dashboard' of the project and University finances. This will be continued on a monthly basis as well.

The remainder of the week was spent preparing notice boards for the 'Meet the Architects' day to be held on 21st May.

Week 21

I updated the Councils on the progress with the PWLB loan agreement, and it was agreed that they needed to finalise some points at their end. A very short conference call, but positive steps are being taken.

The full Project Development Team met to run through the monthly changes and movements in the project. It was a detailed meeting, with both architects giving full presentations on each of the buildings they had designed, and where they had got to with each. The designs at this stage are excellent, and it is all very exciting. All other departments discussed their progress, and a number of issues had arisen on the planning front, which needed to be worked on between the planners and the structural engineers.

I then attended the second risk workshop, to run specifically through the Health and Safety and Property and Legal risks. As has been the case throughout, we managed to strike through some risks that had been mitigated, but others had arisen that hadn't been mentioned previously.

The Academic Project Board met the following day to discuss the relevant work streams being taken forward to the new campus. The University is making wholesale changes to the academic programme, and this Board is a fundamental part of ensuring a smooth transition.

The final meeting of the week was the regular third party conference call. This job continues to move forward at pace and a number of the third parties have either agreed to excluded leases, or have agreed to move to the new campus when it is completed. I also received the news that I had passed my APC during the conference call, which led to silent celebration!

Week 20

I took this week off as study leave, with my APC interview taking place on the Friday lunchtime.

Week 19

The University completely closed for the Easter weekend, leading to a three day week at the campus. However, a lot was squeezed into the shortened week. The monthly PAC meeting took place on Wednesday and the risk of borrowing significant amounts of money was the key focus. The PAC wanted the Executive to provide monthly updates of the contingency spend, and also on the risk register, so that they could chart the progress and changes throughout the duration of the project. This will be implemented in future meetings.

The Property and Legal meeting followed the PAC, which discussed a number of the issues at the two existing campuses and the Waterside development site. Outstanding issues that are causing concern continue to be the rights to construct two bridges across the River Nene to access the site. Savills and Mills & Reeve are continuing to apply pressure to the relevant parties.

The following day was spent at Margaret Street, with one meeting following another. The first was the monthly Technical Team meeting, with all parties reporting their progress over the last month, and issues arising, and steps to be taken in the coming month. The second meeting was with a smaller group, to discuss a more detailed catering strategy for the site, and what space we have available to accommodate it. The Russell Partnership provided a recommendation, which was discussed by the team.

Week 18

A shortened week due to the Easter break and a day of APC study leave began with a conference call to discuss the third party interests. As has been the case throughout the process, where progress is made on one point, two new points come out of the woodwork. The University had been contacted by a major telecoms company who have an aerial at one of the campuses. This had prompted a number of discussions as the telecoms company was looking to assign its lease to a newly formed company. Savills provided the lease advice to the University. The matter is still to be resolved, but good progress has been made.

The first risk workshop run by Mace followed later in the week. Mace were using the previous Project Manager's risk register and updating and amending where necessary. The risk register is used by the whole project team to monitor the various elements of the project. Following this meeting, the M&E consultants, CouchPerryWilkes gave a presentation on the various types of CHP which could be used at the site. Whilst a final decision is yet to be made, their recommendation is to adopt a gas fired CHP unit.

Week 17

The negotiations with NBC and NCC regarding the PWLB continued to move forward, and a weekly conference call to discuss any outstanding points has been set up. The conference call took place on Monday morning with all parties represented. Both parties went away from the call with points to clarify and come back on, which will be followed up on during next week's call.

The remainder of the week was spent writing reports and minutes for the various meetings that I had attended, and circulating to the team. I was also liaising with Mace regarding future meeting arrangements for the Technical Team and the Project Development Team.

Week 16

I started the week at the Council House in Northampton at a meeting with the Borough Council, the County Council and the University to discuss the agreement for the Public Works Loan Board loan which has been offered to support the funding of the new development. The loan agreement is in draft form, but moving along well.

I had my second APC session with Viv Spurge on Tuesday, which was again very useful in preparing me for my final assessment. The remainder of the week was filled by internal and external meetings around the project. The full development team met later in the week to run through progress for the last month. Some initial designs were shown by the architects for each of the buildings, and a number of comments were made. There was also a specific focus on the catering provision, and its location.

Week 15

The strategy for the disposal of Avenue Campus was discussed in detail, with several options talked through by Sadie Janes. It was apparent that there are several methods of disposal available to the University, but that one method creates a far higher value compared with the others. A paper was requested by the University to outline the available options and the recommendation from Savills.

Week 14

I only had one day in the office this week as the final APC revision sessions began.

I had two key meetings early in the week. The first was to receive an update from Mace on their progress, which included stripping back the existing programme, and reworking it to include new work streams and amended work streams where necessary. Issues such as the completion of the footbridge have been moved around in an attempt to streamline the project. The second meeting was the monthly PAC meeting, where progress was discussed, and the key issues reviewed. The same top five risks remained in place, with the major risk to the project being the provision of borrowing consent from HEFCE.

The remainder of the week was spent in Margaret Street training for the APC. Sessions on presentation skills were useful, as well as a detailed presentation on the Red Book and the Bribery Act. The week was completed with an all-day session with Viv Spurge.

Week 13

I was involved in further discussions with one of the technical advisers over the details of their contractual agreement throughout this week. It began with a meeting early in the week to discuss the final scope and fee agreements. However, I have become aware of the fact that contractual agreements for major projects are far from simple. The meeting concluded with the adviser going away to consider their proposal.

The following day, I was back at Margaret Street for a meeting with the new project managers, Mace. This was a discussion about their role, how the University sees them taking the project forward and what the University, as clients, require from Mace. A meeting was held afterwards to discuss the revised Masterplan, and any implications that this may have.

The latest third party conference call took place on Friday, where issues that had been dealt with were ticked off. It was noted that there is a theme to these calls - one job resolved equals two jobs that come out of the woodwork! Work continues.

Week 12

I attended a site remediation update meeting at the beginning of the week, which was attended by the remediation contractors, the project engineers, the CDM advisors and the cost managers. The remediation was reportedly running according to plan and programme, with no additional cost elements having been unearthed at this stage. The afternoon was taken up with the Development Team Meeting, where one member from each adviser attends to give their monthly update.

The Technical Team Meeting was held the following day at Margaret Street. More detailed updates were given and a number of critical issues were discussed and dealt with. The wider meeting was followed by meetings with the individual advisers to discuss their progress and work to date.

Week 11

This week was shorter due to some annual leave, but at the start of the week, I was present at a meeting to discuss the strategy for the Avenue Campus. It had been decided previously that one of the buildings was likely to be retained for future use, and this meeting discussed the approach to the remainder of the site. A number of options were put forward, and the group were tasked with completing more due diligence on the options prior to the next meeting.

Week 10

The Project Audit Committee was the focus of my agenda this week. This committee oversees the project, and advises the Board of Governors on its opinions of the decisions being undertaken by the Executive. I was tasked with drafting the report on the project for the committee, and then taking the minutes of the meeting.

The following day I was at a meeting at CH2MHill's offices in London, discussing the role of the catering consultants, and their initial findings. A meeting regarding the infrastructure of the site followed, with particular focus on the design implications of the new footbridge.

The week concluded with the monthly conference call to discuss third party issues at both existing campuses.

Week 9

As with the previous week, there was a focus on interviews. The Mechanical and Electrical engineering role was tendered for, and as with the PM role, five shortlisted companies submitted their ITTs for marking. The team marked the tenders, and submitted the scores for review. The interviews were completed two days later. Each party presented for 15 minutes, followed by approximately 45 minutes of questioning from the panel. Following the interviews, a review session took place, and it was agreed to request a few points of clarification from each of the parties prior to making the final decision.

Week 8

The focus of this week was to conclude the tender stage for the Project Manager role. Several companies tendered, and five were shortlisted. The shortlisted companies returned their Invitation to Tender (ITT) documents. A team of five then marked these documents based on a strict criteria, before discussing our thoughts. A final score was given for each, with price added afterwards. The interviews took place two days later, and this time I was on the interview panel. A set list of questions was confirmed before we began, and we were all designated the questions that we were to ask. Kieran Rainsford at Savills lead this process. The interviews were all of high quality, and at the moment, the decision has not been finalised. Further clarification was required from a number of parties.

Week 7

I met with the Estates Team to discuss third party agreements that are in place at Park and Avenue campus. It is anticipated that the Park Campus will be sold with vacant possession when Waterside is complete, so it is imperative that there is a good understanding of the current agreements. We discussed all in detail and established various lease lengths and whether they were protected by the 1954 LTA. Although the Estates Team had entered into a number of agreements, it was clear that there were several other arrangements in place within individual Schools that needed to be bottomed out. Further work was required.

I have also been tasked with sorting out an internal University system which holds all of the information that we have regarding the Waterside project, which can be called upon at any time. At present, the data we have is spread far and wide, so the remainder of the week was spent pulling the information together into organised files. The intention is to link this to a password controlled webpage for use by all approved parties.

During my lunch hours, I also found a bit of time to write up some more of my APC templates!

Week 6

This was a quieter week from a meetings perspective, but my time was taken up editing and proof reading a report for HEFCE. The report contained a comprehensive overview of the project to date, and was designed to support the borrowing proposals. Each member of the project team submitted a section to the report which were then compiled by a team at the University. Editing the document took several days, but was eventually completed and sent off to the printers. The report will be issue to HEFCE prior to their board meeting.

Week 5

Another week filled by meetings in Northampton. Interviews for the role of 2nd Architect took place, which provided an interesting insight into how to pitch for work on a major project. My role involved pre-marking the tender documents to give the interview panel a guide as to who had understood the role, and also to establish the range of fees that had been submitted. Unfortunately, I was not on the interview panel for this role. The University Governors and the internal project team, including the CEO and the Project Manager, completed the interviews and after some clarification, the role was awarded.

The Higher Eductation Funding Council for England (HEFCE) Estates Team visited Waterside on Tuesday 14th January, and I showed them around. We viewed the site from the roof of the Avon Cosmetics building, which gives a great perspective of the site. We then visited the St John's halls of residence, a development which is due to complete at the beginning of February. The self catered residences will accommodate 468 students, and are located approximately 1 mile from the Waterside site.

The Project Manager, CEO and I met with PWLB on 16th January to discuss the details of the loan agreement. The meeting was made easier as HM Treasury had provided further backing to the project, which gave comfort to the Borough and County Council. It was concluded that the solicitors woul go away and discuss the finer points of the contract, and the group would reconvene in February.

Later that day, I met with The Russell Partnership to discuss the food provision at the existing campuses and how this will be modelled when going forward to Waterside. I showed the two delegates around the site, and then sat down with the Estates manager to discuss the pricing. They will be providing a report on their initial ideas for food provision at Waterside by the end of February.

Week 4

The Christmas break had its usual effect, with many of the project team taking well deserved time off. With festivities over, work resumed in earnest on the Waterside project. The financing team assembled to discuss strategy to ensure that the project remains under budget. Several plans were established and a meeting with HM Treasury was set up.

The technical team met in London on 8th January to discuss progress on site at Waterside. It was confirmed that the site clearance contractor was almost finished, and the site had been cleared. Some of the demolished buildings had proved difficult to break down, with broken machinery causing some minor delay. The clearance contractor was due to make way for the Phase 1 remediation contractor at the beginning of the following week.

On the 9th January, the full project team met to discuss progress. Neil Rowley, Planning Director, discussed the progress that had been made for Waterside, and for the existing campuses. The afternoon was spent with the remediation contractor discussing the finer points of their agreement, and ensuring they were ready to begin work at the start of the following week.

Week 3

Monday was again taken up by a number of meetings. A number of the advisers attended a meeting at the University to discuss progress and the way forward for the project following a number of recent events. These meetings are a regular occurrence to ensure that the project does not run over budget.

The afternoon was spent with the Public Works Loan Board and both parties' legal teams, discussing the commercial elements of the loan agreement. Some interesting points were made, which I will discuss at a later date.

Later in the week, I met with the University's Head of Commercial Services to discuss the third party interests on both campuses and agreed a procedure for any new agreements being entered in to. This was a very useful meeting discussing the current break down of leasehold interests on both campuses, and how we can ensure that the vacant possession of the campuses can be achieved by the proposed departure date.

I was asked by the Project Manager to pull together a quarterly expenditure breakdown which the University has committed to so that the cashflow of the project can be carefully monitored internally. Eventually, I have proposed to input all of the receipts that have been paid to date so that an accurate cashflow is maintained internally throughout the duration of the project. The highlight of the week was the news that we had all been waiting for.

On Wednesday evening, the Northampton Borough Council granted outline planning consent with conditions for the whole scheme. The Planning Committee voted unanimously in favour of the development project, and were all incredibly complimentary of the work undertaken to date. The project manager commented that we are now 15% of the way through the project...lots of hard work to come!

Week 2

My second week at University of Northampton was rather truncated as I had my two final College of Estate management exams. However, I was back in the University on Thursday, which was my first full day on site. I took the time to get to know the other members of the office who I will be working with throughout my secondment. The whole team are excellent and have made me feel very welcome. I'm looking forward to working more closely with them.

As part of the arrangement, I will be spending one day a week in my 'home' office of Birmingham. I spent Friday working from Birmingham, which was largely taken up by a conference call with our legal advisers regarding the third party interests at the existing campuses.

Week 1

The role started by attending a meeting with the Public Works Loan Board, who have agreed to loan the university a substantial fee towards the development project. The loan is in its early stages, and the meeting involved discussing the key principles of the loan agreement and how it would work for the University. The meeting progressed to a point where legal advice was required by both parties, so it was resolved that we would arrange a new meeting when each parties legal representatives could be present.

We then headed to the University campus where we met with the approved catering advisers who will be providing analysis and space recommendations for catering facilities on the new site.

The week was taken up by a number of meetings to discuss contract formation with third parties, an update to the University's internal project committee and an update to the existing landowners of the development site. We also met with HEFCE about the project and its key funding components to discuss their thoughts on the matter.

Overview of the Project and Role

The University of Northampton intends to develop a new £330m campus on a 60 acre brownfield site in the centre of Northampton, on the site of the former Avon Cosmetics manufacturing facility. The University will be disposing of their existing premises once the development programme has been completed. The development will comprise up to 400,000 sq ft of university space with potential for a further 150,000 sq ft of expansion. The University is seeking to accommodate a significant number of students on site, and this will be catered for by up to 1,500 beds in student accommodation facilities. The students will also benefit from a sports hall and floodlit sports facilities.

Further to the University space, there will be a provision for up to 350,000 sq ft of commercial office space with discussions on going with a number of major occupiers. There will be a 150 room hotel on site to be run by a third party. The whole site is intended to be energy efficient, and plans are in place for the installation of a combined heat and power plant which will provide all of the power and heating needs for the University and commercial facilities.

There is a large project team running the development of the new University campus. The key advisers are KPMG, Mills and Reeve, Savills, Turner and Townsend, CH2M Hill and MCW Architects. My role is on behalf of the University, and I will be assisting the University's project manager with the day to day running of the project. The role will involve attending project meetings, liaising with advisers and ensuring that the project continues to run smoothly through some of the more complicated phases, including the completion of legal agreements, remediation contracts and planning approval.