Autumn Newsletter 2023

In this issue:

  • BSF Champions now Finalists for Two more Awards
  • Apprenticeships Earning & Learning at MA
  • Project Case Study: Thamesmead Library
  • Tender Price Update
  • Project Case Study: Ashby’s Point
  • MA Raises over £10,000 for the RBLI

MA Named Finalists For Two Awards

We are delighted to have been named as a Finalist at the Building Magazine Awards 2023 for ‘Construction Consultant / Surveyor of the Year’. Our shortlisting recognises our continued commitment to delivering well-designed affordable homes as well as our ability to provide a valuable and quality service to our client base. Now in our 24th year, Martin Arnold has continued to go from strength-to-strength taking on a wide range of new build and asset management projects.

Additionally, our Commercial Way development has been shortlisted at the Inside Housing Development Awards in the ‘Affordable Housing Development’ category. Appointed by Southwark Council, our team provided Employer’s Agent, Cost Consultancy, Principal Designer and Clerk of Works services on this scheme which has delivered 109 genuinely affordable fit-for-purpose council-rented homes at genuinely affordable rents on the edge of the North Peckham Estate.

These nominations follow Martin Arnold also being named as Building a Safer Future Champions by Dame Judith Hackitt. As the first multidisciplinary practice to achieve this status, we are immensely proud and continue to prioritise safety across all of our developments.

We look forward to the winners of these awards being announced towards the end of the year.

Apprenticeships: Earning & Learning at MA

At Martin Arnold we continue to value staff training and development. We currently employ 9 apprentices who are at varying stages of their qualification, with 4 new apprentices expected to join us this year, making up nearly 10% of the Practice’s team. For apprentices such as our own Will Stone, the apprenticeship programme offers the opportunity to gain valuable practical experience whilst studying. Additionally, Will won’t incur the financial burden of having university fees.

Will is currently enrolled on a BSc (Hons) in Chartered Surveying at London South Bank University, where he spends 1 day a week, during term time. For the other 4 days, Will is based in our office or on-site, taking on live project work. Outside of term-time, Will focuses on areas of learning he is weaker in which are identified during meetings with his Apprenticeship Reviewer, giving him the opportunity to improve his skills ahead of submitting coursework.

Reflecting on his experience as an apprentice, Will says: “One of the projects I was involved in, a refurbishment scheme for a housing association, provided me with a great opportunity to see the topics I was learning in my degree in a practical context. This allowed me to better understand elements that may have been less clear when briefly discussed in a lecture. For example, in my module ‘Construction and Property Law’, I learned the basics of party wall matters, allowing me to advise the site team to avoid works to certain party walls without prior approval, avoiding legal issues for our client. Similarly, in the ‘Property Inspection, Repair and Maintenance’ module, we learned to identify numerous forms of cracks. From this, I could highlight areas of concern to the site team when inspecting the external elevations, and then see how these are made good in later visits”.

As an organisation, we have recognised the value of these apprenticeships both for our students and for us as an employer. Students are able to gain applicable skills whilst they earn and benefit from being surrounded by a cohort of other students who they can lean on throughout their course. We also ensure students are properly supported by more senior members of the practice who will regularly check in with them to ensure they are getting good exposure to a range of projects and that they have an opportunity to focus on areas they are weaker in.

For Martin Arnold, we benefit by employing a number of talented people who often go on to have long and successful careers with us. In fact, 70% of our Directors and 50% of our Associates joined the business at Graduate or Apprentice level and have progressed to lead, develop, and grow Martin Arnold into the established business today.

To find out more about our apprenticeships & training programmes click here

Case Study: Thamesmead Library

Appointed by London Borough of Bexley’s Libraries Team, Martin Arnold provided Employer’s Agent, Principal Designer and Clerk of Works services on the Thamesmead Library project. The scheme is located in the centre of Peabody’s multi-million South Thamesmead Regeneration project and is the outcome of an architectural competition.

Our team supported the Libraries Team with the technical aspects of their agreement with Peabody to lease the ground floor of the Nest Community Building, which was to accommodate community facilities and the new Thamesmead Library. Our team supported on lease negotiations with Peabody and their technical consultants, overseeing the library floor ‘shell and core’ works and the procurement and administration of the library fit-out works through a Design and Build contract.

The scheme is designed around the concept of a swan’s nest with a contemporary internal design of the new 357 sqm library area incorporating a number of unique features including a children’s library area within the ‘birds nest’ surrounded by bamboo reeds. Other features include a display of a local artist’s sculpture hung from the library ceiling, a business meeting facility and state of the art IT suite all for local community use.

Martin Arnold played an integral role in the delivery of this project to ensure the scheme was delivered within a reasonable time period and cost due to the unprecedented delays and issues that were experienced during the course of the works.

Tender Price Update

The latest reports on cost inflation indicate a slow down to a potential 5% till the end of the year but the impact of it being fairly rampant for several years and its adverse effects on the UK construction industry are still being observed. The increased number of insolvencies, closure of large firms and building costs being at a historic high are all indicators of the market conditions across the past few years.

BCIS reported that construction insolvencies accounted for 17.8% of all insolvencies in England and Wales in June 2023, with a total of 387 firms becoming insolvent, which presents a 23.2% increase on the same month in 2022. The annual insolvency figure is reported to be a total of 4,282 construction firms.

Construction output for the second quarter of 2023 shows some mixed results with the overall output increasing by 0.3% from the first quarter and a higher jump noted between May and June 2023, by about 1.6%. Private housing and commercial sectors continue to decline which has in parts been offset by the slight rise in infrastructure output.

Looking ahead ONS data shows an overall decrease in new orders by 7.1% from the first quarter of 2023. The question continues to be whether dampened demand due to increased costs and finance costs will offset rises driven by  increased input costs.

The Government remains under the spotlight to see what commitments would be made in the Autumn budget for the construction industry and further ahead all parties are keen to understand what the next Government will do to boost the sector especially in Housing.

Estimating future costs remains a challenge with indices and forecasts not being reliable in predicting ever-fluctuating building costs. Labour costs continue to increase and are anticipated to be the main cost driver given current and ongoing shortages which are likely to push up wage inflation.

A number of Construction roles have officially been added to the Shortage Occupation List in August which should ease immigration and visa issues and may have a positive impact on labour levels. This remains to be seen.

While year on year inflation currently sits at 4%, the quarterly BCIS TPI sits at 0.8%, a reduction of 0.3% from the previous quarter with the next forecasted quarter at an even further decrease to 0.5% movement on quarter, showing a slowdown in prices. Annual TPI increased by 4% between 2Q2022 and 2Q2023.

Housing continues to experience significant losses with 3.3% decrease in output in the second quarter of 2023 and an anticipated 15% decrease in 2023 as a whole.

Private commercial output is down 30% since 2019 with recovery not expected to be forthcoming as both demand and priorities have significantly changed.

Considering the current economic climate, the demand for houses is anticipated to continue its decrease until signs of economic recovery are observed. Without a form of government investment, delivering 300,000 homes per year remains unrealistic and both political and government intervention will be required for this objective to be undertaken.

Case Study: Ashby’s Point

Our team were appointed as Contract Administrator, Architect, Principal Designer and Clerk of Works for cladding remediation works at Ashby’s Point, a residential building comprised of 92 flats situated in Tonbridge and Malling.

Our client, Town and Country Housing, briefed MA to not only make the building safe but to ensure the completed building looked as close to the original as reasonably possible. In close collaboration with our Principal Designers, our Architectural and Building Surveying teams completely redesigned each building facade with modern products and systems, with materials of limited combustibility. Planning consent was easily achieved due to the close matching design.

Building safety and resident satisfaction were core drivers on this project. As such, our Clerk of Works attended site each day to monitor the works progress and quality management. Our client also attended site multiple times each week and assisted the smooth running of the project with quick informed decision making.

MA Raise over £10,000 for the RBLI

We are proud to announce that we have now raised over £10,000 in support of the Royal British Legion Industries Charity, to help them with their mission!

Royal British Legion Industries (RBLI) is a national charity and since 1919 they have provided crucial accommodation, welfare and employment support to injured veterans and people with disabilities, a mission that Martin Arnold is proud to support.

Martin Arnold took part again this year, with the Annual Ride with a Veteran, this time cycling from the RBLI village in Aylesford Kent to Ypres raising £55,000 for the charity! We have sent a team on all the RBLI rides which began in 2018 and in 2019 included a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II herself and we are delighted to continue support this event.

This July Chris, Tom, Jim and the rest of the peloton battled some unsettling and wet weather to complete the ride distance of 160 miles over a weekend, only to arrive in Ypres to find the famous Menin Gate covered in scaffold! Fitting some might say!

One of the reasons that Martin Arnold have supported and continue to support the RBLI and their mission is that their values and goals align very closely with our own values and we think the goals of the wider affordable housing sector too.

IMPACT is a key part of the RBLI mission, having this word at the heart of their values is important to as they aim to maximise the impact they are having in everything they do in providing housing, welfare and employment support to those people with disabilities.

I: Integrity, committed to doing what’s best while, maintaining transparency and respect at all times

M: Motivated, to maximise value through challenging ideas, innovation and embracing change

P: People First, caring about those we support, our colleagues, our customers and our stakeholders

A: Accountable, being responsible for our actions and inspiring each other to make decisions and take ownership

C: Community, taking pride in our inclusive and thriving community with its unique network of support.

T: Teamwork, achieving our goals together through the strength of our collaboration and communication