Autumn Newsletter 2021

In this issue:

Spotlight on Cladding Video Series

The recent fire which devastated a 20-storey residential block in Milan was a stark reminder that cladding remediation is still a critical topic for any housing providers who still have properties with combustible facades within their portfolio.

For the last 3 years we have worked with the Ministry of Housing Communities & Local Government and a number of clients on residential properties that require re-cladding.

As signatories to the Building a Safer Future Charter we believe in being part of the movement to change the culture surrounding building safety in the housing sector through sharing knowledge and information. This is why we have produced three short, informative videos which share our experiences of these projects, and maybe answer some questions around the challenges ahead.

Topics covered by these videos include:
Assessing and understanding the external wall system on blocks of flats and apartments
Preparing designs and achieving approval for replacement
Procuring contracts for remedial works to affected residential properties
How remediation projects are delivered on site
Working and communicating with residents
Our specific quality control strategy
All three videos are available to watch on Vimeo at the following link: https://vimeo.com/showcase/8760039

Delivering Affordable Homes & Fire Safety in Higher Risk Residential Buildings (Part Two)

In our last newsletter we discussed the first, “Transition” phase of Fire Safety management as we assist our Clients to meet the challenges of providing affordable housing while taking into consideration of the Hackett review and uncertainty over which of its recommendation will be applied to Building Regulations in the future.

Today, we will be looking at the second, “Impact” phase.

The Impact Phase is likely to cause further challenges. In October 2020, Competence Steering Group published their report, ‘Setting the Bar: a new competence regime for building a safer future.’ This report established a model for improving the competence of those working on HRRBs and driving a wider culture change within the construction industry.

Six months later, in April of this year, the Fire Safety Bill became the Fire Safety Act. This sets out the requirements for a responsible person to assess the safety of a building’s External Wall System on any building with more than two homes and introduces the requirement to assess the safety of a building’s structure and flat front entrance doors. This will require clients to chose between costly intrusive surveys to determine exactly what components make up the fabric of their building or to gather and record sufficient evidence regarding the EWS, cavity breaks, cavity barriers and fire doors during the construction phase (which will necessitate more management and co-ordination).

Martin Arnold is assisting clients in gathering this crucial information, ensuring that each building’s structure is assessed for safety now and that evidence is retained for future reference. This has only been possible through working closely with our clients, their contractors, and their other consultants to share and validate information and eliminate uncertainty.

The Building Safety Bill is expected to become an Act of Parliament later this year and is anticipated to come into effect in 2023. Uncertainty about the Act, the role of the new Building Safety Inspector, and the effect that these will have on the construction and management of HRRBs has already affected client strategies for developing homes through HRRBs.

We know that the Building Safety Act will likely introduce three phases into the design and construction process, which will require further planning, co-ordination and management by project managers. These phases will be known as Gateways, namely:

Gateway 1 – Planning & “Fire Statement”
Gateway 2 – Construction “Building Control+”
Gateway 3 – Final Certificate & “BSR Submission” & Handover to Accountable Person

The Accountable Person will be the individual or entity that has a legal responsibility for maintaining the common parts of a building. Under the Building Safety Bill, the Accountable Person will also need to be appoint a Building Safety Manager to conduct the day-to-day management of fire and structural safety in HRRBs. The Building Safety Manager will then be responsible for implementing any changes to a building that are required following a building safety assessment, and act as a point of contact for residents to ensure that they remain informed.

While these roles will be responsible for maintaining the safety of a building during the occupational stage, they do not diminish the need for close collaboration, information sharing, quality control during the building’s design and development.

The responsibilities of all duty holders to ensure that an HRRB is built safely remains intrinsic and so Martin Arnold will remain dedicated to following our commitments made as signatories of the Building a Safer Future Charter to protect residents and clients alike.

Hospital Site Gets New Lease Of Life At Acton Lane

Working as Employers Agents and Cost Consultants on behalf of Network Homes, we are delighted to have recently handed over a fabulous development at Acton Lane. The scheme is part of wider plans by Network Homes to build more homes near Central Middlesex Hospital and sits on surplus NHS land which used to house a call centre and storage facility for the hospital.

The development comprised a mixture of Shared Ownership, London Living Rent and Affordable Rent apartments, alongside 284 sqm of commercial floor space. The luxury scheme features an impressive palette of materials and features include the landscaped communal terraces at the twelfth and fourth floor, as well as feature landscaping at ground level including children’s play equipment.

The Principal Contractor, Hollybrook Homes, ensured the project was delivered to the highest quality and well in advance of the original completion, despite the complications imposed through the Covid-19 pandemic on their site operating procedures and construction changes in relation to the reclassification of combustible materials.

Martin Arnold worked collaboratively with Network, Hollybrook and various stakeholders’ pre-contract to ensure a bespoke and comprehensive set of contract documentation was produced, setting out and agreeing explicitly the roles and responsibilities for each party. This led to an efficient project delivery, with little hinderance during the construction phase. Hollybrook guaranteed that Network’s decisions were at the forefront of all product and design discussions post-contract to ensure the client achieved their desired outcomes.

Grenfell & Construction Industry Reform

Martin Arnold’s Chairman, Jim Martin, has recently published his new book, “Grenfell and Construction Industry Reform – A Guide for the Construction Professionals” which he co-authored with Steve Phillips, Senior Lecturer in Building Surveying at Northumbria University.

The book was written in response to the independent Hackitt Review which assessed the state of UK construction and found key, systemic failures in practices and behaviour throughout the industry which had led to the Grenfell disaster. Having been part of the construction industry for nearly 50 years, Jim felt obligated to highlight the clearly apparent problems which led to the Grenfell tragedy.

In their book, Jim & Steve explain why major safety reforms are needed, how they can be achieved and the steps towards improvement that the UK construction industry has taken so far. As such, it should provide valuable insights for any construction professionals who want to understand the challenges currently being faced by the industry and are keen to apply lessons learned to help ensure that resident feel safe in their own homes.

Copies can be ordered from most good booksellers including Amazon.

Martin Arnold Rides Again

Across the weekend of 16th – 18th July, Martin Arnold’s team of cyclist set off on their 150-mile trip from Aylesford in Kent to Meriden in the West Midlands. The 2-day journey saw them ride through the rolling hills of Kent and through a grid-locked central London, with the ride concluding at the National Memorial for Cyclists that gave their lives throughout previous conflicts. The ride not only gave participants a fantastic opportunity to raise money for a very worthy charity, but also to ride alongside Veterans that have been helped by the Royal British Legion Industries (RBLI) and giving them a chance to listen to their stories.

The day following the ride, the team paid a visit to the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. This 25-acre woodland was created as a living memorial for the armed forces, civilian organisations, voluntary bodies and animals from across the UK and the Commonwealth who have played a part in serving the country.

In total, over 30 riders took part and raised more than £18,000, a fantastic sum which will help fund vital support in providing jobs, homes and care for our veterans. Martin Arnold’s team, Tom, David, Chris and Daren have raised over £2,000 towards this total, and we thank each and every one of you that has donated so far. There is still time to donate if you wish, and you can do so by visiting: www.justgiving.com/rbliteamma21

Martin Arnold would love to encourage anyone that would like to take on a fantastic personal challenge on future rides, so do get in touch if you would like to join us, or even enter a team of your own for 2022!

Tender Prices & Market Commentary

Construction cost inflation as a result of a shortage of materials and labour continues to be a major issue for all involved. The BCIS reports an increase in tender prices over the past 6 months alone of 2.5% and is forecasting a total 2021 increase of 4.3%. For a £10m project that reflects an increase of £400,000 across the year. Specific projects may see significantly higher increases during the year depending upon a variety of factors.

In reality, we are now seeing the impacts of this at all stages of the procurement and construction process. Contractors and sub-contractors are evidently very nervous about super-inflation and/or ongoing supply shortages on various materials and whilst clients would sooner not bring in price fluctuation clauses or similar, they are faced with paying significant sums for these contractors to bear the risk. This may in turn push clients over the limit on scheme costs given the premiums are so high and doing so is putting pressure on project budgets.

It is clearly one of the most difficult times for tendering, particularly on D&B procurement, for both clients and contractors. We are experiencing difficulties in assembling contractor lists for tenders and the last few tenders received have seen a significant increase in pricing and a much higher resistance from contractors on higher risk-based items. Best practice has contractors showing inflation or fixed price allowances in their returns in order to enable a more collaborative approach to be discussed with clients.

There is strong feeling that ‘fluctuation’ clauses will be pushed back into contracts by the contractors although this will obviously be met with resistance from some clients who are hooked on a fixed price approach. The middle ground will likely be restricting the clauses to specific packages or specific materials. Clients will need to think differently about their budgets and accepting that there will be adjustment against the agreed lump sum.

The biggest problem for the main contractors is the supply chain which is pushing back on the fixing of offers at tender stage. This represents potentially huge risks to Contractors on any projects with fixed prices already agreed.

Some anecdotal evidence suggests that the volatility in the market is easing however it is likely to be a fairly rocky run up to Christmas and into the New Year.

Sea Views & Country Walks At Falmer Avenue

Martin Arnold were pleased to provide Cost Consultancy and Employer’s Agent services for Hyde’s mixed tenure development of 32 homes in an urban fringe site to the east of Brighton.

The art deco inspired design on the edge of Saltdean in Brighton is nestled in the hillside between the south coast and the South Downs National Park, providing a truly sustainable community of affordable rent, shared ownership and private market sale, all in architecturally striking homes.

Due to the sensitivity of the local setting on the edge of the National Park, the scheme had some serious challenges during the planning process with respect to the landscaping of the scheme and the density and layout of the site. Coupled with the challenging sloping topography and the difficulty of site access, our ongoing cost advice and cost management during the planning process was crucial in keeping the project within budget while still meeting the high quality demanded by the local authority.

Following a successful procurement process, Westridge Construction and Hyde collaborated to deal with the idiosyncrasies of a Planning Approval granted through appeal and one that was delayed through the planning process. Acting as Employer’s Agent we fostered and managed this collaborative approach to problem solving and, using the skills of both Hyde and Westridge to their full extent, the project team was able to mitigate cost and time issues arising from the challenging start to the project. Through early engagement we were able to pass on supply chain cost savings to our client.

A successful high-quality project, the homes have proven popular for people who want modern efficient homes with direct access to the South Downs and sea views from their windows, especially for those people looking to relocate outside of town and city centres this year.

Jim’s Virtual London Marathon

Our Chairman, Jim Martin, has been busy. Not only has he published his book, “Grenfell and Construction Industry Reform: A Guide for the Construction Professional,” but he has been hard at work training for this year’s Virtual London Marathon.

This year’s race will be happening on the 3rd of October. First run in 2020, the Virtual London Marathon gives participants from around the world the opportunity to take on one of the world’s most famous Marathon courses.

Last year over 37,000 runners completed the race while this year’s event will be running (no pun intended) parallel with the traditional Virgin Money London Media from Blackheath to the Mall, with a record 50,000 runners anticipated to be passing just a stone’s throw from Martin Arnold’s Woolwich offices.

Jim will be raising money for two worthwhile causes with his Marathon run: the first is Age UK in Hythe who acted as the Community Hub during the pandemic and saved many lives. Jim is also running to help provide Christmas lights in Hythe High Street to hopefully spread some joy this Christmas. Donations to his campaign can be made at: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/jim-martin-1