Construction projects are a community process, not just in terms of immediate impact but also in the long-term benefits they offer local areas. This concept is particularly resonant in the case of...Continue Reading
Construction projects are a community process, not just in terms of immediate impact but also in the long-term benefits they offer local areas. This concept is particularly resonant in the case of local authority construction projects, as they are partially funded by taxpayers and designed for community benefit and use.
Resident Liaison Officers (RLOs) are central to the relationship between local authorities, construction companies and community members. Not only is it essential that residents buy into the value of the project, but having a dedicated point of contact also helps people feel safe and secure. It allows complaints and questions to be dealt with quickly and effectively and ensures local residents are treated with respect and understanding. This article will delve into their responsibilities and how they support construction projects for not only local authorities and housing associations but occupied residential buildings in general.
What is a Resident Liaison Officer?
Many of an RLO’s main tasks revolve around effective communication. They help run communications between residents and community organisations through to local authorities, regulators, and associated partners including fire protection providers. That said, they must also represent the interests of local authorities and housing associations by conveying the importance of a construction project. This is achieved by demonstrating how it will bring value to the area and address the community’s needs. As seen below, this varied role can be broken down into several key responsibilities:
Building trust between project stakeholders and the community
The main goal of an RLO is to create and maintain a productive relationship between local authorities, housing associations and the community throughout project delivery. Firstly, communities must understand the projects’ purpose and proposed benefits, while being allowed to voice any concerns they might have. Secondly, the RLO acts as an advocate for transparency and accountability, so that all responsible parties adhere to regulatory standards. By creating a relationship built on trust, RLOs increase community engagement and investment in construction projects.
Supporting the efficiency of the construction process
If residents or community members object to a construction project, the resultant conflict can set back project timelines – which has various implications for budget and resources. To reduce the risk of this occurring, RLOs can channel community input to influence how construction processes are planned and implemented. Sheffield City Council, for example, has opened up plans for city centre changes to the public for feedback to ensure “the project delivered meets the needs and expectations of those who will benefit from it”. This helps create a supportive, positive environment so that the project is delivered on time, within budget and to the highest possible standards.
Creating effective communication channels
Residents and community members must have access to as many avenues as possible to convey their needs or concerns to project stakeholders. RLOs are therefore tasked with setting up and promoting communication channels to help create an open dialogue. These channels are also key to resolving any problems or complaints and can include email, phone, and text lines as well as community drop-ins and resident forums.
At CLM Fireproofing, our resident forums are attended not only by RLOs but an account manager that has been assigned to the project. These forums are designed to update residents and make sure they are clear on the project’s goals and scope of work. They should also empower them to voice their concerns or ask any questions regarding project delivery. If residents cannot attend forums or are seeking more convenient online channels, we provide access to a dedicated online portal. The resources available in this portal will reflect any information provided in forums, including the extent of work to be completed, a project delivery schedule, an FAQs page and contact details.
Helping to coordinate service delivery
The RLO will help teams deliver services and complete installations in a way that prioritises residents and community members. For example, if work is taking place in a housing development and there is reduced access to kitchen and bathroom facilities, then the RLO can organise alternative arrangements. Furthermore, if any residents are particularly vulnerable, such as those with reduced mobility, learning difficulties or mental health needs, the RLO will liaise with contractors so that their needs are accounted for and respected.
CLM delivers passive fire protection services in line with a Resident’s Charter, much like this example from Together Housing. The Resident’s Charter makes clear the level of service that residents can expect when engaging with our staff and subcontractors. It also outlines clear pathways of communication and accountability, so residents can have a point of contact as well as a source of information on all matters related to the project.
Performing project surveys
Surveys can be vital for obtaining community buy-in and identifying any potential issues. RLOs can therefore use both telephone and face-to-face surveys to understand widespread attitudes and sentiments towards ongoing projects, as well as generate useful data for project stakeholders.
RLOs must create metrics that they feel represent residents’ needs, for example, whether they think their concerns are taken seriously or if they feel safe with construction work taking place in their homes. They must also make sure that the survey findings are properly conveyed to stakeholders, and follow up with residents upon project completion so they can evaluate whether or not it has had a positive impact. To learn more, consult the Local Government Association’s 2017 guide to using surveys for understanding residents’ views and needs.
At CLM Fireproofing, we specialise in passive fire protection and fire stopping for housing associations and residential developments. We place a strong emphasis not only on service delivery but also operating with the utmost professionalism and respect for residents and local community members. We go to great lengths to reduce disruption to people’s day-to-day lives, and welcome any feedback on how we can improve our engagement with local communities. To find out more, get in touch with CLM Fireproofing today.