Chelsea Barracks was once the British Army barracks located in the City of Westminster, London and now a world-class residential development comprising a rare collection of apartments, penthouses and townhouses, set in the heart of Chelsea. Pre-lockdown, Karsons were appointed to procure the maintenance contract at this site including all legal aspects of this contract and now undertake an ongoing technical role, auditing the maintenance and also ensuring that the advanced engineering services work in accordance with their complex design. Our Project Manager, Mandira Tripathi, played a vital role in overseeing all aspects of our appointment at Chelsea Barracks. Today we speak to Mandira on her role and experience working as a project manager at this luxury site and generally within the building services engineering sector.
Tell us about your role at Karsons?
Being a Project Manager at Karsons means overseeing a wide portfolio of over 30 sites. At these sites, we provide annual consultancy services, lift consultancy services, tender management as well as a host of specialist Mechanical, Electrical and Public health (MEP) services. My role in all this is to ensure that we perform and deliver by ensuring the works are allocated to the team and seeing its progress through until completion. I play a key role in ensuring that the buildings we manage are compliant through frequent operational meetings, compliance audits, quality management.
Tell us a bit about your background in Project Management and how it’s benefited you on this particular site?
Prior to working in the Building Services/Facilities Management consultancy sector, I worked in the non-profit sector where my passion for working in project management first developed. I enjoy kicking things off and seeing how things come together especially when the team is really working hard to do their part.
Although the sector I previously worked in was different from that of my current role, the skills I gained from it is still immensely valuable. At Karsons I have been introduced to a new sector and I realised that my skills were transferable and that I could really do a good job here. Projects are usually a time-based task, you plan time and resources to fit the scope from the client, you have various deadlines and end-dates for each part and delivery must always be on the highest level. I think the more project management experience you get across different kinds of projects, the more you get exposed to nuances that each project brings. Noticing those nuances over time has helped me quickly adapt and streamline the delivery of a project.
Talk us through your involvement at Chelsea Barracks?
I have been involved at Chelsea Barracks from the initial tender phase where we facilitated tender processes for mobilising a maintenance contractor on site. Currently, I’m involved in overseeing the operational aspects such as the monthly maintenance audits and operational meetings that are coordinated via our projects coordinator and working with our FM team to highlight and action any issues that are raised via the client at the earliest.
In addition to this, I was involved in the development and implementation of KPI’s in our compliance audit in order to monitor progress and performance against the contractual obligations. As the site has complex MEP services, I also draw upon the expertise of our design team as and when required.
Karsons have also been involved in the maintenance management of the void units at Chelsea barracks and I have been involved in the management within the similar structure as of the main barracks. All of this is done through our project management software that has been implemented to streamline our processes and ensure that we are delivering within our deadlines.
From a project management point of view, what are the key aspects for an FM specialist consultancy on a site like Chelsea Barracks?
Hmmm, for this particular site, the key aspect at the start of our appointment was the tender management process. From creating the technical specification, to finalising suitable contractors, providing the clients with regular updates, interviewing tenderers to ensure that we recommend a contractor who can cater to the requirements of the client to finally conclude the tender process by mobilising the maintenance contractor on site with our support on the contracts and technical communication. The tender process in itself was a separate project, and the key challenge was to ensure the correct fit between client and contractor.
As for the day-to-day operational management of Chelsea Barracks, our key focus is on the delivery of compliance audit reports, management of various ongoing issues from the moment it is raised till it is resolved and closed. We keep a log of these issues in our project management software to keep a historic record of the varied nature of issues and also in order to escalate issues if they are beyond project tolerance.
Another important role we also have within this site is to assist in the financial management by providing approval on quotations and invoices and logging these on our electronic system. This is important to manage the budgets for the client by ensuring they invest on the right things.
Finally, from my experience, communication is vital to its ongoing success as there are so many stakeholders to collaborate with and to keep in the loop throughout the various stages of our involvement. We have a lot of involvement in the management of the site, so we try to always be one step ahead and always in contact with the maintenance contractor onsite.
What are the challenges you face when working with a more prestigious site like Chelsea Barracks?
I’d say the challenges we face as a project team mostly relate to the day-to-day project/operational management. Chelsea Barracks is still being completed in different phases and the issues that are raised mostly relate to defects in installation of the equipment. As it is a high-end residential property, it is imperative to flag risks that are noted on site during our compliance audits and communicate these with the various stakeholders involved.
Coming from a project management background have you always felt there were many opportunities to gain experience in this sector?
Yes, while project management skills are widely transferrable, understanding the niche this sector has to offer is vital in running projects. Over time, I have been able to understand and enhance my technical knowledge as a project manager in the Facilities Management/ Building Services consultancy sector. There are so many routes you can take when you start working in this sector and every person you work with has different skills and knowledge that you can learn from and assist in delivering the projects to an excellent standard.
As a woman in a predominantly male industry, what would your one piece of advice be for other women looking to enter this industry?
My one bit of advice to women aspiring to enter this sector would be to not perceive it as a male dominant industry. The industry has a lot of remarkable women who are leading by example regardless of their job role. The key to successfully prove yourself in this industry is to treat all your peers/colleagues with utmost respect and equality, always be open to learning from them and also believe in the value that you can provide and the skills that you can bring to the table.