With over 90 years in the industry, Graham Construction’s journey into public-private partnership (P3) projects has been rewarding. During this time, the company has built a North American reputation of care and attention to detail as they’ve completed a variety of projects including highway and hospital construction. More recently, the company has worked on the North Island Hospital Project in British Columbia and the Regina Bypass in Saskatchewan. Because Graham is employee-owned, the company provides solutions that are more well-rounded, as they consider all perspectives in determining the best solution for communities affected by their projects.

The key to making P3s work is bringing together the right partners, especially when collaboration is designed to bring cost certainty for taxpayers and government. P3 relationships are delicate, so it’s important that companies consistently demonstrate their ability to be flexible in meeting stakeholder needs. Alisdair Dickinson, General Manager of Western Canada Infrastructure at Graham, describes their integrated capabilities as “an effective way to do larger projects sooner.”

Mediaplanet: How does Graham fit into P3 projects?

Alisdair Dickinson: We can span the whole lifecycle of a P3 project, including securing the financing, managing the design, and executing the construction. We’re also involved in the circa-30-year maintenance and operations thereafter, although in some projects, we might take a step back in certain areas depending on our partner’s expertise. For example, on the Regina Bypass, whilst we remain part of the Consortium, we opted not to take an active role on the execution of the 30 year operation and maintenance period, leaving that to one of our partners.

Mediaplanet: How do P3 projects benefit government clients and their constituents?

Alisdair Dickinson: The benefits are based on the ability to do larger projects sooner, which also delivers economies of scale. The P3 model leaves it to the consortium to typically design, build, operate, and maintain the asset, while also providing elements of the financing. This can bring solutions to the market earlier, avoiding escalating costs.

Since the consortium can also be responsible for the future 30 years of operations and maintenance, the motivation to look at the impact of the capital costs on the downstream operation, maintenance and rehabilitation costs is higher, ensuring the solution is truly the lowest life cycle cost.

Mediaplanet: What are some examples of projects that benefit all parties?

Alisdair Dickinson: The Regina Bypass is a great example. The Saskatchewan government had been looking at various smaller projects, going back 30 years. They sought different options, and along with a number of other projects, they decided to use the P3 model to pool them all together.

This is a better option, as traditionally they would’ve had to wait until they had the funding and do the projects one at a time. Getting private funding could wrap everything up in a three or four-year period which compresses the resources and supply chain, offering better value to provincial budgets during the design and construction phases.

Mediaplanet: How can P3s continue to evolve the right way?

Alisdair Dickinson: Management of risk is essentially the core component of any construction project, no matter the form of procurement adopted. The P3 model is one form of procurement and will only continue to succeed if adequate consideration of risk is applied. A true partnering approach will ensure all parties can have visibility of the risk, a clear understanding and a collaborative approach to ensuring it is allocated and managed effectively.

The P3 form of procurement needs to ensure it adopts the above approach, or risk transfer, which is growing significantly, will lead to the procurement method being less favourable. There are many forms of contract and procurement out there but fundamentally the key to success is realizing that there is a most efficient path to delivery of any project, ensuring it truly meets the end users' needs. On time and on budget isn’t the complete story.