Dynamic approach set to pay dividends for ZSL estate
Issues faced by London Zoo reflect those of many UK facilities and its forward-thinking provides numerous examples of how to resolve these and create opportunities for improved outcomes.
While the PFM Partnership Awards have been established to recognise the best examples of collaborative working between service providers and their clients, each year sees examples of FM practices that provide extensive scope for the delivery of beneficial outcomes for many years ahead.
One of the most relevant examples of this within the 2019 awards was that of the Zoological Society London (ZSL) and Pareto FM entry, which was awarded the Partners in SME Organisations trophy after impressing the independent judges with the high quality of results achieved in collaboration.
Comments from the judges included appreciation of how the two partners had achieved a one-team approach that had transformed service delivery and recorded numerous successes, with many more expected.
While this had been achieved through the restructuring of the maintenance team, introduction of a new CAFM system and launch of an efficient helpdesk function, further collaborative efforts had seen energy and water savings, along with greater support for LGBT+ within the organisation.
“This partnership demonstrates what can be achieved when two organisations adopt a fresh approach to delivering FM services in a challenging and unique environment,” said the PFM Awards judges.
Reacting to the partnership's success, Pareto FM managing director Andrew Hulbert says: "We are thrilled to have been awarded this accolade alongside ZSL.
"This is a genuine partnership that demonstrates how two organisations can truly work together to deliver maximum value for both parties.
"We are privileged to work with the ZSL senior management team and share their passion for the conservation of wildlife," he continues.
"The growth story of this contract is a real example of how SMEs can make significant impact on well-established organisations and further demonstrates the case for more entrepreneurial businesses within the sector.
"We look forward to the upcoming challenges and facing them together as a partnership," says Mr Hulbert.
Following this, PFM visited London to meet ZSL principal lead estates and masterplanning Simon Francis to discuss the many transformational projects it is planning and preparing for in the short-, medium- and long-term future.
Although his employment period had not reached the end of its first year, it was clear that the vision for the ZSL estate stretched many years ahead.
“Like many others who manage heritage estates, we have the added challenge of securing the necessary funding for the continual maintenance needed,” he says.
“But there’s now an increasingly detailed programme of refurbishment to improve the buildings on the estate, some of which are listed and becoming unfit to be used for animal care.”
Rather than adopting the ‘make do and mend’ approach seen in many other facilities experiencing similar challenges, the ZSL approach has been to devote additional effort to both identifying the improvements required and how these can be achieved.
In addition to renovating the existing facilities and infrastructure across the estate, there are increasingly detailed plans being put in place for the new buildings to be constructed in the future for both animal care and scientific research:
“The refurbishment of the Snowdon Aviary will be a major project this year, along with a new design by Foster+Partners,” Mr Francis continues.
He further explains that the construction of one of a number of new buildings in the coming months will include the use of building information modelling (BIM) to assist in the long-term running of this facility.
Once the effectiveness of this has been assessed, Mr Francis hopes that it will become a standard element within other construction projects in the future.
“There are too many examples of where BIM has only been used for the initial construction of buildings,” he continues. “This means that the most valuable aspect is not being used, as it should be applied to create a greater understanding of how the building works and allow more detailed understanding of how it should be run and maintained throughout its useful life and beyond.”
His previous experience in managing facilities in the higher education sector is cited by Mr Francis as providing valuable knowledge that has been applied to his current role and which can be seen to have a much wider scope. “But it’s also easier to manage animals than students, as in many ways their behaviour is often far easier to predict,” he states.
Although he has to deal with a number of issues in addition to those outlined above, Mr Francis will be regarded as fortunate by some in having direct access to senior management personnel within his organisation.
While reporting directly to the ZSL chief financial officer, he also benefits from weekly meetings with its director general and attends monthly meetings with other executives and charity trustees, resulting in the driving of improvements in a number of areas.
“We’ve been on a massive health and safety journey over the last 5 years,” he continues, “which was crucial as we have people working on our conservation projects in 50 countries and that means we have to work safely, responsibly and sustainably and on an international basis.
“We’ve now applied best practice in all areas, using the Alcumus system for governance and have a robust risk management framework in place for all areas of our work,” Mr Francis continues.
“The success of these efforts has now been confirmed, too, through the winning of health and safety awards.” With the ZSL focus for 2020 placed on sustainability, processes established within the recent health and safety drive will be used to achieve the best results and gain support from colleagues for these projects.
"With 660 acres of ground at its Whipsnade site and 36 acres at its London setting, the potential for renewable energy projects is providing valuable opportunities.
“Just using one field at the Whipsnade site will allow us to install enough PV panels to generate sufficient electricity to cover the energy use of both sites,” says Mr Francis. “Exporting energy back to the grid will mean we could create revenue and we’re also looking at battery options for storage.
“With the price of solar technology continuing to fall, it’s an easy decision to make to improve our sustainability and reduce our costs. We’re also looking at the possibility of using anaerobic digestion at Whipsnade and we’re currently looking for the right partner for this,” he continues.
There are also advanced plans established with Pareto FM for energy management that will continue to be further developed, depending on the outcome of ongoing efforts to monitor usage and determine where further improvements can be achieved.
Many of these future ambitions will be featured within the enabling plans of the ZSL 200 plan that Mr Francis and his senior colleagues are working to establish.
This will provide a detailed plan of the aims, requirements and considerations over the next 10 years that will be required to continue to improve the visitor experience and ZSL sustainable practices, while managing maintenance requirements and building new facilities.
“It’s been interesting to see how many of the issues facing the world, such as climate change, are influencing how ZSL is aiming to improve the way it operates to become more sustainable,” says Mr Francis.
“I’ve certainly had my eyes opened since joining on how many species are now at risk of extinction, which shows that we have to reduce our impact on the environment as soon as possible.
“That’s a major reason why sustainability has become a core business focus for ZSL and making it essential for us to put the infrastructure in place to allow us to become much more sustainable in the future. The overall aim is to combine all these within a holistic view, particularly of our environmental impacts, while developing plans that are understandable and achievable,” says Mr Francis.