The Client Brief
Kaplan International College (KIC) is one of the most respected international colleges in London and part of Kaplan Inc., a leading provider of global education, offering a range of study options partnering with worldwide universities. The client had been providing courses to international students across 3 floors of a multi-tenanted building, known as Palace House, SE1 near London Bridge for over 10 years. We started working with them in January 2016 when they had the option to acquire the entire building, circa 48,000sqft, comprising ground to 5th floors. Their brief to us was to create a flagship college.
Initially activities involved building surveying advice to assist with the acquisition process. The client was impressed with the level of support they received from us and extended our instructions to providing project management support for the phased refurbishment of Palace House. This included renewal/refurbishment of base build installations on behalf of the landlord and the remodelling and fitout of all floors to provide a modern, fresh, vibrant college atmosphere to support the future learning strategy for projected student headcount growth of up to 1,200.
Critical to the brief was maintaining teaching continuity for the college, managing works within the agreed budget and delivering a fully functioning college by the 1st January 2019 to accommodate the increased student numbers the business had committed to. The client had stringent criteria around health & safety and placed the safety and welfare of their students a top priority. A specific concern was managing construction activities in a college environment where English was a second language for their students. KIC do not have the traditional academic holiday breaks and Palace House is located adjacent to Borough Market and residential units all of which posed a higher than normal level of restriction on construction work during the working day, weekends and evenings.
Our first steps were to carry out detailed technical due diligence on the condition of the building fabric and base build services installations to ascertain the work and provisions required to protect the client on the acquisition of the building on a 15-year FRI lease at full market rent. We worked intensively with the client’s property agent and legal advisor to negotiate a commercial deal, which included a landlord contribution towards Cat A reinstatement and for the replacement and upgrade of base build plant.
In conjunction with the design team, whom we recommended and appointed, we worked closely with the client in the UK and US to establish a brief for the works aligned to the budget. Late client changes had to be made to increase flexibility for future teaching requirements, which required further revision of the budget and programme. However, after providing revised procurement strategy advice to the client, concluding with the selection of a 2-stage competitively tendered design and build route, the project remained on track.
Having built a high level of trust with the client by proving our capability and experience during the initial acquisition stage, we had a high degree of autonomy as project manager and employer’s agent and were given delegated authority, allowing us to operate effectively as an extension of the client’s business.
Throughout the project we maintained close contact with the landlord and their advisors ensuring they had full information at all times. Building strong relationships was very beneficial when challenges were encountered throughout the works and motivated the landlord team to work with us to find solutions.
We carried out very careful and detailed planning to establish the most effective way to phase the work to mitigate disruption to the college. At the same time being mindful of the impact on costs of undertaking work and setting realistic sectional completion dates based on the risks surrounding specific construction activities, including works requiring electrical shut down of the entire building.
Sectional completion dates for all floors throughout the 8-month construction phase were achieved, practical completion was issued in December 2018 and final works value came in under budget, slightly below £7 million.
The completed project exceeded the client expectations and currently the college is expending their student intake faster than anticipated with headcount already approaching 1,000. Feedback from staff and students has been very positive on the new environment and, you can read from the testimonial that the client was very pleased with our support.
It was a pleasure working alongside KIC London to deliver a new flagship college and we continue to provide the client with advice on other property matters.