Only a couple of years ago, if you were talking about how something was able to pivot, you’d more than likely be discussing an engine or some other technical gizmo. These days, everyone is talking about businesses that have been successful in pivoting to adapt quickly to changing commercial conditions since the start of the pandemic.

Here at Chisholm & Winch, leveraging what we’re good at to respond to clients’ changing needs is something we’ve always done. We may not have always referred to it as an ability to ‘pivot’, but we definitely ensure that every client and every project benefits from the experience we’ve garnered over the past 40 years and the multi-disciplinary team we’ve developed.

Leveraging the skills and experience on the team

The construction process brings together a huge range of specialist skills, with successful projects relying on the right expertise being deployed in the right sequence to deliver the required quality on time and within budget. At Chisholm & Winch, where much of the skills and experience we need is provided by our in-house team, we have an agile business model that can pivot to the varying needs of different projects, sectors and site environments. Crucially, we also have a talented team of project managers and site managers, all of whom have risen through the ranks and have hands-on experience in construction trades.

What this means for our clients is that we know the individual strengths and track record of each of our project managers and can assign the right person to each project by focusing on the experience and transferable skills they can bring to the table. And because each of our project managers has worked ‘on the tools’ before taking on a management role, they understand the real-world challenges of getting the job done on time and within budget, and can therefore implement innovative strategies for buildability, programme management and overcoming site-specific requirements. Ours is a culture that encourages collaboration across the team at all levels, so the project managers are all open to suggestions from the construction team, benefitting from the creativity and experience of the hive mind.

From offices and airports to apartments

The way we have adapted our wide-ranging experience of operational fit out projects in the commercial office and airports sectors to the residential sector is a good example of how transferable skills have enabled us to pivot in order to service a sector where our expertise is in high demand.

For decades, we have delivered projects at Heathrow and at a wide range of corporate office buildings, which have involved sequencing the programme to enable the building to remain fully operational during working hours, while progressing the work to meet mission critical deadlines. We’ve achieved those projects by using our experience to phase the work, segregating work areas to enable progress while maintaining safety, and working flexibly – out of hours where required – to get the job done.

We’ve been so successful at this that we were even once called back to a project by the client because he thought we hadn’t started on site….in fact, we had done such a good job of segregating the office floorplate from the work area and returning his workstation to normal during our night shift that he could see no evidence we’d been there until we walked him round what we’d achieved behind the partition!

It’s that ability to deliver projects in an occupied building with minimal disruption and maximum safety for the end user that has been so valuable to our clients in the residential sector. Much of our residential work has been in multi-occupancy apartment buildings where the common areas and shared facilities were in need of an upgrade. This might involve updating access control, security and safety systems, refreshing the lobby, lifts, corridors and stairwells, or revamping shared facilities such as gyms, pools or terraces.

Creativity & resilience

For building owners and management companies, maintaining a property to a high standard and keeping pace with trends in the residential development and build to rent (BTR) sector is essential for retaining and attracting occupiers. But the work must be done without nuisance noise and dust, with minimal disruption to normal routines, and with a clear focus on safety. Our experience in operational refurbishment means that we are able to consider every aspect of these requirements when planning and delivering a project: from access routes and segregation of the work area, to project phasing and scheduling, working hours and delivery arrangements.

The pandemic has been a challenge for everyone, but it has also encouraged a new way of thinking that has unleashed creativity and resilience. At Chisholm & Winch, we were already skilled in transitioning from project to project and sector to sector, and now our ability to do that is driving enquiries for residential work.