Working with government is essentially about people. K2LD Architects and Interiors has delivered a range of government projects using stylish and practical modern design. Its leading designers say the key to successfully securing and completing public projects is building solid relationships and delivering a creative result on time and on budget.
Most recently, K2LD used a joint venture with Architectus to provide Principal Design Consultant services to the Victorian Department of Education and Training for the Growth Area School 2017 2018 Project (GASP).
K2LD is an innovative architectural and Interior design studio in Melbourne's CBD that prides itself on originality, quality and a strong client focus. No built outcome is identical, and people are at the heart of everything it does.
Founded by David Lee in Singapore in 2000 and Melbourne in 2007, its expertise encompasses houses, community precincts, multi-unit developments, educational and large commercial projects.
Working with government
K2LD's government projects are all original and incorporate local themes, such as heritage buildings, accessibility, natural landscapes and multicultural communities.
After starting small, K2LD built a strong reputation which helped in securing more projects. Director Tisha Lee says working with government is "very much about people and relationships".
Work quality is also crucial. K2LD must tailor each project to the end user, stick strictly to a budget, abide by government requirements and meet deadlines. "Stakeholder management is really critical," Tisha explains.
Where possible, Tisha and her team meet all stakeholders. "The stakeholder groups are very large and complex in this type of project," she says. "Sometimes you're building for people you've never met."
You've got to have a degree of empathy but also vision. You're not just a designer. You have to have people skills.
Tisha Lee, Director, K2LD Architects
Government versus private sector
Tisha says the key to success in working with government is trust, good communication, community engagement (where possible), great design, reliability and meeting deadlines. She says governments are rightly careful with their money, so contractors must combine their creativity with a strict budget and various official requirements.
Transparency is therefore extremely important.
"They have to be mindful of how they spend," she says. "The guys in the office actually have much more pride in doing the government work than some of the private sector work because it forces them to be that much more creative. Less doesn't mean bad. Less actually means you've got to try harder."
Quality is also crucial, as you are dealing with communities that want to be proud of their buildings. "It's really about utilising taxpayers' dollars where they will be most impactful for the communities. It does have to have some gravitas and some 'wow' factor as well."
Finding and assessing opportunities
K2LD initially had to build the required connections and reputation to become a preferred government supplier, which means it is invited to tender for various projects. Each submission can take a team of up to eight people several weeks to complete.
Tisha says successful contractors never rest on their laurels and know that "you're only as good as your last project". "You can easily default to coming up with a formula, doing the same thing again and again," she says. "We take it upon ourselves to make sure every project is unique. We don't have a cookie cutter approach. You're never going to have the same site or group of clients."
What makes a good joint venture?
K2LD began exploring joint ventures about four years ago and the GASP project with Architectus was a big success. K2LD Practice Manager Harry Jackson says it is important to find a partner that complements your skills and talents and to recognise each other's strengths.
He says trust and working well together are a must. "It's about finding people that align with your values and have a general mutual respect for each other," he says. "One thing we've found with a successful joint venture is both companies know that the other has something that they need."
Advice for SMEs wanting to work with government
In offering advice for businesses hoping to secure government contracts, Tisha and Harry both emphasise the importance of building strong relationships.
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