Building Better began as a big idea in a small room. That big idea was to help the housing association sector build a large proportion of the 300,000 new homes this country needs every year – but cheaper, to a higher standard and more quickly. Sound crazy? Not really – modern methods of construction (MMC) can deliver all of that. But if it was easy we would have done it already. To get there we need to work together as a sector, and in collaboration.
We were on that journey when the coronavirus pandemic struck and – spoiler alert – it didn’t stop us. What it did do though was demonstrate the resilience of manufacturers and made us more determined to get housing associations building with MMC because we still need 300,000 homes a year – and now there was a better understanding of why those homes needed to be better quality, more cost effective and delivered quicker.
One of our key lessons after months of research and years of working in housing associations was that choosing the right manufacturer to deliver your MMC homes was one of the biggest hurdles. Our sector has some incredible people working in development with years of experience, and a great understanding of the development process, the pitfalls, the opportunities but that experience and knowledge is in construction, not manufacturing. And comparing manufactured homes to constructed ones is like comparing a Tesla to a Ford Focus. They might look similar but the process of getting there and the performance of each are completely different. So creating a mechanism that would give housing associations the confidence to know they were choosing the right manufacturer to deliver their homes was critical.
With this in mind, we asked NHF members and the wider sector what they wanted from a manufacturer of homes. We also asked manufacturers what they needed from housing associations and members how many homes they thought they use a manufacturer to produce. We researched the necessary legal input and resources required, and spoke to procurement professionals. Then we did all this again to make sure we got it right. Here’s what we’ve learnt:
The organisation we are partnering with for the frameworks is Procurement for Housing. With more than 900 members UK-wide and extensive experience in procurement for the social housing sector, Procurement for Housing has great links with the National Housing Federation, Chartered Institute of Housing and HouseMark. At Building Better we have already spent hours engaging manufacturers, working with housing associations, listening to feedback, working to unblock some of the barriers and linking in with government. Now, with Procurement for Housing, we can feed all of this into a procurement process to deliver the frameworks we think the sector needs and that manufacturers want. We know this journey is going to be exciting, hard and educational. But I’m confident it’s going to work because we’re not doing it on our own.