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Building Better, the National Housing Federation-supported alliance of housing associations working to develop offsite solutions for the social housing sector, has selected Procurement for Housing to develop a procurement framework for offsite manufacturing with the aim of building a minimum of 500 homes.


Building Better was set up through the National Housing Federation’s Greenhouse innovation programme in 2018, which explored the reasons behind the chronic shortage of affordable homes and the quality issues that plague many new builds. With a combined stock size of 277,000, the Building Better alliance of 25 housing associations aims to significantly accelerate modern methods of construction amongst social landlords.


Social housing procurement services provider, PfH was appointed after a competitive tender process and will start work immediately. The offsite construction framework will be informed by Building Better’s research, including over 100 interviews with housing associations and their residents, analysis of the latest offsite innovations and learning from previous projects, which all indicate that greater collaboration and standardisation are key to overcoming the offsite supply challenge.


Procurement for Housing will use these research findings, the expertise of Building Better alliance advisers such as construction specialist Cast Consultancy and its own experience of developing complex procurement projects, to create a demand-led framework that will overcome common barriers around offsite construction in social housing.


Although some small projects have taken place in social housing, offsite only represents around 3% of the UK construction market and the volume needed to sustain factories and reduce unit prices hasn’t yet been achieved. Building Better has appointed PfH to address this and develop a framework with a high degree of standardisation that gathers wide-scale commitment from social landlords. The goal is to develop strong partnerships with the supply chain, create value for money for social landlords and offer a high-quality solution which helps housing providers to build properties with high energy efficiency, that are better value for residents to run and for providers to maintain.


The offsite manufacturing framework will offer additional construction capacity to social landlords that are already feeling the effects of the ageing construction workforce and a looming skills shortage, made worst by the economic impact of Brexit and the coronavirus crisis. Offsite construction has the ability to help social landlords meet their new build targets because it offers a more structured supply chain, less exposure to the fluctuations in the traditional skills workforce, faster delivery and more control over quality and sustainability.


Helen Greig, project director at Building Better said: “We wanted a procurement partner with a strong understanding of delivering complicated frameworks that also had experience in modern methods of construction. Procurement for Housing have a loyal membership-base of over 900 housing providers and a strong understanding of the issues facing the sector and how to overcome challenges through collaborative procurement. We’re looking forward to working with PfH so we can raise the bar around modern methods of construction in the social housing sector and create a framework that delivers on quality as well as price.”


Steve Malone, managing director at Procurement for Housing said: “One of the biggest challenges around offsite construction has been that social landlords often express an interest and there are small developments but you need a regular, consistent flow of work, in a standardised format, to make offsite construction economically viable. We’ve always known that offsite construction has to be demand-led, not framework-led to work in social housing. Our collaboration with Building Better is all about harnessing demand in the sector and shifting modern methods of construction from a cottage industry to the mainstream.”

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