With the 300,000 new homes target now all but dropped by Government, LHC’s offsite framework is supporting public sector organisations to source MMC solutions to deliver an increasing number of council homes. LHC regional hub South West Procurement Alliance (SWPA) is now mid-way through a programme with Wiltshire Council and modular housing manufacturer Rollalong to deliver 1,000 homes over three years.
Wiltshire Council was keen to explore the possibility of using MMC to meet demand for council houses across the South West and to achieve its commitment to build 1000 new council houses in 3 years.
It needed to assure quality, while reducing maintenance costs and improving sustainability in its new build homes. While it wanted to use MMC as a solution, the Council was experiencing some challenges around establishing relationships with specialists, sourcing the right volume at the right price, and navigating complex local government procurement processes.
It looked to public sector construction framework provider LHC’s regional hub, SWPA, to procure the right expertise through its Offsite Construction of New Homes (NH2) and Offsite Project Integrator (OPI1) frameworks.
Using a framework to procure MMC expertise
Wiltshire Council was provided with a simplified route to market, enabling a call-off from the NH2 framework with fully compliant access to Rollalong, as well as a mini-competition to source expert MMC consultants Taylor Lewis through the OPI1 framework.
Mary Bennell, SWPA Director, said:
“The two frameworks go together to create a complete offering; the combined expertise of both the consultant and the manufacturer mean that many of the barriers to MMC, including the different ways of working, can be overcome.”
Several factors played a role in choosing SWPA’s NH2 and OPI1 frameworks as the procurement route. These included:
- Ease of access to offsite solution manufacturers, with proven and demonstrable delivery
- The opportunity to procure Rollalong – which was already working with Magna Housing Association in the South West – through direct award
- Using an established portfolio of designs to deliver an initial project to get buy-in internally for using offsite solutions
- Access to the OPI1 consultancy framework, through which Taylor Lewis was appointed via a mini competition
Bringing the project to life
Over an 18-month period, which involved multiple Zoom calls to navigate the need to move the project along despite Covid-19 lockdowns, Wiltshire Council agreed shared house types that comply fully with NDSS. With the addition of PV, they are also effectively carbon neutral in operation.
Now in contract with Wiltshire Council, Rollalong is manufacturing the units for the first 19 homes, five of which will be wheelchair-accessible bungalows, to be transported and completed on three pilot sites.
The decision-making process, and the timescales for making key decisions, are quite different with MMC compared to traditional building methods because everything must be decided before production begins. Delays in decision making can have major implications for production or delivery and could even lead to losing a factory slot.
Establishing what good social value looks like for a framework is vital to SWPA, as well as its public sector clients. For Wiltshire Council, this went beyond achieving value for money, and included a focus on meeting low carbon objectives using local companies with nearby factories to reduce emissions. Here, the local supply chain has also been used to subcontract mechanical and electrical contractors, electrical engineers, roofing contractors and ground workers.
As a member of SWPA, Wiltshire Council has also been able to access the South West Community Benefit fund. This grant programme, which is run by SWPA and delivered in partnership with South West Community Matters, delivers grants to small community groups in each client’s area.
The new NH3 framework from SWPA, which replaces NH2, will further help to deliver community benefits, while addressing some of the new housing challenges within the public sector. It aims to maintain a strong focus on sustainable methods of construction, creating a greater supply of housing stock that is environmentally fit for the future.
Dean Fazackerley, head of technical procurement at LHC, said:
“The NH3 framework will build on the success of NH2, which has so far enabled £93.5m-worth of projects with a total forecast value of £277m. It has contributed to the number of low-carbon, modern apartments and homes for housing associations and local authorities across the country, using modern methods of construction and offsite techniques to produce cheaper-to-heat homes for the communities they serve.”