Interview of the month : Geoffrey Tkaczuk

3 minutes of reading

Geoffrey Tkaczuk, Works Supervisor with Brézillon, is leading the Echarde rehabilitation project in Compiègne and tells us about his positive experience alongside the site occupants

l'interview shared innovation

Beyond the technical issues involved, redevelopment projects on occupied sites present real challenges in terms of improving the social cohesion and quality of life for existing residents. What is the particular context of your project, and what made you decide to put in place these initiatives with its residents?

The Echarde project involves the rehabilitation of 140 housing units, where we are carrying out works to refresh the damp rooms, upgrade the electrics and insulate the façades in line with the BBC Renovation low-energy label. This has been long-awaited project for the occupants because the funding has been difficult to obtain, and the expectations are very high for this residence, which is located in a high-priority neighbourhood.

The main aim of this rehabilitation project is to improve the comfort of residents and to reduce energy use. To succeed in this, it’s vital to involve residents in the project and to increase their awareness of sustainable development issues in an enjoyable and inclusive way.

In addition, as Brézillon is deeply committed to CSR and customer experience (two of the new strategic priorities under BBFE Group policy), we thought it essential to aim for high client satisfaction, our client in this case being the social housing provider OPAC de l’Oise. This of course means satisfying OPAC’s own end clients, the tenants themselves. To ensure this, we have undertaken various initiatives on the site in order to work more closely with residents, to better understand their needs so that we can better meet their expectations. This also means that we enjoy a better relationship with them and can see to it that the site works proceed as smoothly as possible for all concerned.

What types of initiatives have you set up to bring residents on board?

We have set up various initiatives at different levels and with different aims in mind.

Firstly, we set up a dedicated website for communication with tenants and local residents. Unlike standard letters, this has provided us with a faster, more proactive way to communicate, and gives the company a more modern image in the eyes of our client.
We have been holding breakfast sessions to set out the expectations of our clients and the watch-points for our subcontractor partners. Several topics have been covered, such as quality, safety and environment, but our main focus has been the social aspect, the expectations of tenants, particularly regarding the scheduling of the façade works. Several watch-points have been discussed, such as the cleanliness and tidiness of communal areas, for example. This all contributes to the smooth running of the construction site.

Within the context of European Sustainable Development Week, we organised the distribution of notebooks to local school children. The notebooks are the end product of a large virtuous circle as they were made using recycled paper collected from the Brézillon offices, which was also a lesson in circular economy for our employees. The paper was then sorted by disabled workers from the ESAT vocational rehabilitation centre in Compiègne. Lastly, the paper pulp was turned into notepaper by Recyclage Ecocitoyen, an organisation sponsored by Brigitte Macron, to then be made into notebooks formatted for primary school children.  The books were handed out as part of an exhibition on sustainable development issues for the children. Eight posters were created on different themes such as waste, water and food. The headteacher of the local school was also invited to link this event into a wider teaching and learning initiative.

Together with the notebooks, a snack, a gardening kit, some colouring pencils and a recycled cardboard building set were given out to the children (pack created in partnership with our client, OPAC de l’Oise). This event was warmly received by parents, who are often frustrated by the lack of involvement of local groups.

In terms of integration, we have put in 1,000 hours over and above our contractual requirement and we have also recruited an individual from the residence for the upkeep of the site facilities.
We have also allocated housing accommodation within the area for use by subcontractors coming from the Ile-de-France and Lille regions in order to reduce their commute and improve their wellbeing (quality of life in the workplace). A number of other activities have taken place, such as participating in the “Bouchons d’Amour” bottle cap project with tenants and subcontractors, as well as the involvement of ESAT in site events such as a meal to mark the raising of the TopSite flag.

Work on site is due for completion at the end of this year, but what is your immediate feedback on these initiatives? How well have they been received? What difficulties have you encountered in organising them?

The majority of these activities have taken place over the last two months, but we have already noticed that our relationship with the occupants has improved. Communication is smoother, and we have had some very positive feedback about the activities that have directly involved local children.
The subcontractor site workers have come on board quite well and were actively involved in the bottle cap project. These activities have also given them a better insight into client expectations as they have felt a closer connection to the tenants here.

In terms of organising the events, we’ve done everything ourselves, thanks to the willingness of the teams here and the communication efforts of our Resident Relations Manager José Clemente in particular.

And lastly, our client has really valued the initiatives we’ve put in place. Things will quieten off over summer, but we are already thinking about what we can organise for the project handover. If we had to do it all again, we would organise things in much the same way or even do more, as these actions really do prove beneficial to all stakeholders of a project like this one.