Clive Feeney, chief officer of the Scottish Procurement Alliance, considers the challenges in realising the Scottish Government’s ambitions for new housing and looks at how procurement frameworks may be able to help.
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What do you see as the main challenges for developing authorities in realising the Scottish Government’s aim for 50,000 new homes by 2021?
Developing authorities face a number of challenges – the availability of suitable land, getting planning approval for schemes where land has been identified and, ultimately, successfully delivering each scheme.
Some organisations have either never developed, or have not actively developed for a number of years. They have been managing a portfolio of properties but not actively adding new build houses to that. A lot of those authorities are now seeking to develop, and so they need a range of support. For example, some may not have maintained the technical capacity to put a tender together and then assess responses.
There is also the challenge of workforce skills and supply chain capacity. There are a limited number of main contractors in Scotland with the capability to build homes in the numbers required to meet the target. This is in part down to the skills gap in traditional trades, and in part the introduction of new technologies, such as offsite construction, for which capacity is still being developed. People will now need modern methods of construction, and that will mean offsite.
How is the Scottish Procurement Alliance (SPA) aiming to help developing authorities in meeting the target?
SPA has been supporting developing authorities over the past three years through NH1, its offsite new build homes framework. This gives our partners access to high-quality manufacturers of offsite panellised and modular housing solutions and/or contractors to erect those units.
NH1 has enabled our partners to plan the delivery of more than 2,700 new homes, which will be delivered during the lifetime of that framework. But as successful and well received as it has been, we were being asked by our partners for additional services that were not part of that framework.
Many clients required feasibility and design services or cost consultants, for example. So that led us to broaden the scope of our service and to develop an all-encompassing framework – the H1 House Building Framework – that offers support for the whole housebuilding process.
Our partners will now have access to a range of organisations both large and small, local and national, which offer front-end services – quantity surveyors, contract administrators and engineering, clerk of works, and architectural and health and safety services – in addition to access to pre-approved manufacturers and contractors.
That ready access to high-quality firms in the supply chain will dramatically reduce the timescale of projects for authorities seeking to deliver new housing.
When is the H1 House Building Framework expected to launch?
The framework was opened to applications from the supply chain in October last year and closed at the end of January. Our technical team is now evaluating those submissions.
There are two workstreams: contractors and professional services. We expect to award places on the framework to both during March, and officially launch H1 by April. We have had tremendous interest in the framework from across the country and fully expect to have coverage in all areas.
How did SPA go about developing the framework?
As we had already developed the NH1 framework, we had a feel for the market, but this is the first time we have collaborated so closely with both partners and the supply chain in drawing up a framework of this kind.
Over 18 months, we held workshops and talked to manufacturers, contractors and partners. SPA is an alliance of 70 organisations – local authorities and social landlords. They range in size from small co-operatives that own or manage a few hundred homes, to large national landlords with tens of thousands of properties spread across the country, so their needs are quite different.
We met with 50 of our partner organisations during our workshops and built the framework around their requirements and expectations. We believe partner collaboration is key to the success of this framework – ensuring that our partners’ needs are met.
What do you expect the benefits of the framework to be?
We believe the pipeline of 2,700 homes to be built under the current NH1 framework is just the beginning. Since the new H1 framework includes professional services and has been developed through collaboration, we believe we can substantially increase that number.
The Scottish Government has stepped up to the plate and put much of the funding in place. We believe this framework underpins the ambitions of our partners to deliver on the government’s new homes aim. The funding has given the sector confidence and there’s real determination among our partners to deliver.
For companies successful in securing a place on the framework there will be access to SPA’s partners and their build programmes – providing a visible pipeline of work. This will enable early engagement between partners and tier 2 suppliers, facilitating collaboration and joint working to deliver additional benefits such as apprenticeship schemes, on-site training opportunities and employment opportunities.
The successful delivery of projects will result in increased quality housing, but it is these extra benefits we hope to deliver to communities across Scotland that really excite all of us at SPA.
SPA partners are committed to working together to deliver tangible community benefits through every project, ensuring we play our part in delivering a legacy, along with high-quality, affordable housing throughout Scotland.
Clive Feeney is chief officer of the Scottish Procurement Alliance. For the past seven years he has supported Scottish housing associations and local authorities to deliver efficiencies through their procurement of building and construction services via the use of pre-tendered frameworks.