Spring Newsletter 2021

In this issue:

Signatories of the Building A Safer Future Charter

Martin Arnold is pleased to become a Registered Signatory of the Building a Safer Future Charter. Martin Arnold recognises that becoming a Registered Signatory is an important first step towards achieving the culture and behavioural change required in relation to the Charter’s objectives around building safety. In confirming our support as a Registered Signatory, we will now be working to ensure that we embed the principles of the Charter into our organisation’s activities.

EWS1 Update

New RICS Guidance to Ease Housing Market Issues
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) announced on 8 March 2021 it’s new guidance on the valuation of properties in multi-storey, multi-occupancy residential buildings with cladding. The RICS aim to have this guidance implemented by 5 April 2021 and are working with the Government and consumers to meet this deadline.

The guidance is the result of collaboration and consultation with it’s members, leaseholders, lenders, fire safety experts and Government and crucially it clarifies types of properties which will, and those which will not, require additional inspections, because of fire safety concerns.

It is important to note that this guidance will be for the purposes of valuations only and it is not a life safety risk assessment, so lenders may still determine that a valuer could need more information around potential remedial work that could affect the property’s value.

The guidance clarifies those properties that are and those that are not required to have additional inspections, as a result of concerns about fire safety, and we set out this criteria below.

For buildings over six storeys an EWS1 form should be required where:
There is cladding or curtain wall glazing on the building or
There are balconies which stack vertically above each other and either both the balustrades and decking are constructed with combustible materials or the decking is constructed with combustible materials and the balconies are directly linked by combustible material.
For buildings of five or six storeys an EWS1 form should be required where:
There is a significant amount of cladding on the building (25% of the whole elevation estimated from what is visible standing at ground level) or
There are ACM, MCM or HPL panels on the building or
There are balconies which stack vertically above each other and either both the balustrades and decking are constructed with combustible materials or the decking is constructed with combustible materials and the balconies are directly linked by combustible material.
For buildings of four storeys or fewer an EWS1 form should be required where:
There are ACM, MCM or HPL panels on the building.
The Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP has said “I welcome RICS’ new guidance which will mean nearly 500,000 leaseholders will no longer need an EWS1 form – helping homeowners to sell or re-mortgage more quickly and easily”.

Whilst this guidance has the potential to ease the problems in the housing market, there is still much work to do in tackling cladding remediation to existing blocks of flats and apartments, although the Government’s latest announcement of extra funding is discussed in this newsletter.

£3.5 Billion of Extra Funding for Landlords for Unsafe Cladding

The new deadline for applications is 30 June 2021 and works must start by 30 September 2021,
building owners wishing to claim funding related to leasehold dwellings can now also do so. £3.5 billion has been made available to cover cladding removal from buildings over 18 metres or six storeys in height.

Leaseholders in buildings under 18 metres could still have to pay for the work themselves, although the Government announced a long-term financing scheme where those in four to six-storey buildings will pay, at most, £50 a month for cladding removal, though exact details of this plan are still being finalised.

There is speculation that the current funding total will only cover approximately 1/3 of the housing stock over 18m in the UK with a further £6-10 billion needed to ensure all buildings with unsafe cladding above 18m are removed and replaced.

Applying for Funding
The newly topped-up BSF is open to owners or the ‘Responsible Entity’ of buildings over 18 metres tall in both the private and social sector, which the Government says are most dangerous, but these are by no means the only buildings affected by the cladding situation.

We are currently working tirelessly with Landlords to meet the deadline, to ensure our clients are successful we are: –
Completing intrusive external wall inspections.
Reporting on findings and recommendations for appropriate remedial solutions.
Appointing competent Fire Engineers to comment on findings and confirm recommendations.
Appointing a design team to specify remedial works.
Engaging with Contractors to submit tenders or negotiate works price due to time constraints.
Submitting final information to the BSF portal for analysis & approval.
What is not covered by the Funding?
Costs for fire related remediation works, that are not covered by the BSF will therefore need to be paid for by the landlord and or the leaseholders, these include substantial costs for:
Missing or defective cavity barriers
Balconies constructed from combustible materials
Defective internal fire stopping
Ongoing waking watch costs & common alarm systems
Fire alarm system upgrades & improvements
Rising insurance premiums to affected buildings
Please feel free to contact us to discuss the BSF and whether you think you might be entitled to make a valid claim against unsafe cladding, or if any of the fire related issues not covered in the BSF that you suspect might be affecting your buildings.

Tender Price Indices for 2021

The BCIS have published their latest quarterly briefing and have confirmed that tender prices in the 4th quarter of 2020 fell by 0.6% on a quarterly basis, and by an annual 1.5%. The forecast for 2021 shows gradual but steady cost increase throughout 2021 as the economy is forecast to continue its recovery.

Most marked in the latest set of data from BCIS is the new work output figures which show that total new work output increased by a huge 39% in the 3rd quarter of 2020 compared with the previous quarter (although this was still a decrease of 13% compared with a year earlier).

It is this forecast continued growth in new work output that is due to drive likely construction inflation over the next 18 months in a market that is still generally very cautious given unknowns in relation to Covid-19 and still some uncertainty around how Brexit will affect the industry. However, it is noted that in the BCIS forecast, new work output only returns to 2019 levels by 2023.

At Martin Arnold we have seen a general increase in activity throughout the market although much is focussed on asset management work, with a particular focus on cladding. New build work is increasing, and we have seen contractors becoming busier, which is always an indication that tender prices will begin to increase. Recent tender returns have not been as low as Summer 2020 and the feeling is that the market has stabilised and is slowly moving back towards, and beyond pre-Covid levels.

Moat Cultivates New Homes on Former Garden Centre

Martin Arnold are delighted to have granted Practical Completion on another successful development between Moat and Skillcrown Homes delivering 27 affordable new homes in a conservation area in the London Borough of Lewisham.

Providing 100% affordable housing, including shared ownership and affordable rent apartments, the scheme is of high architectural quality due to its location in a leafy conservation area in the town of Catford. The scheme included a small number of fully adapted wheelchair homes and also electric vehicle parking – essential elements of an urban project like this so close to transport links and a town centre.

Despite the tight site constraints of the project, there is a high level of both private and public amenity space across the development including; striking hooded balconies, private courtyard gardens and a communal garden for peaceful enjoyment as well as a separate dedicated play area for children.

The tight site constraints made logistics a challenge for Skillcrown, further impacted by the issues of the Covid-19 Pandemic and the effect this had on overall site operations and programme delivery. Working collaboratively with the Contractor and our Client, as Employer’s Agent and Principal Designer, we assisted by working through the problems posed by the pandemic together, addressing the challenges it had on welfare facilities and also the programming and overall sequencing of works on site.

This collaborative approach was beneficial because, whilst we could not prevent delays caused by the pandemic, we did successfully mitigate those delays and maintain the high quality of works that the Client and Contractor strived for onsite, whilst upholding site welfare and health and safety.
Read More Here

House Fire Damaged Highbury Leisure Centre

Appointed by Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), whilst working closely with London Borough of Islington (LBI) in the Autumn of 2018, following a significant fire at Highbury Leisure Centre we were asked to help rectify the damage to the pool hall, wet changing facilities, various roof areas to the plant room and the health and fitness centre.

Martin Arnold’s appointment was on a multi-disciplinary level, throughout all RIBA Stages associated with the project as Project Manager and Technical Consultant, Cost Consultant, Principal Designer/CDM Advisor, Designer and Contract Administrator/Employer’s Agent and Clerk of Works.

Prior to Martin Arnold’s involvement, the Client had mobilised to restore usage to the Leisure Centre, given that many areas had remained untouched by the fire. This included securing the site and putting the remaining areas back into public use, which meant continued use of the health and fitness centre throughout the duration of the project work.

At an early stage it was clear that this would need to be split down into further separate packages of work. We proposed an initial mobilisation phase which dealt specifically with the fire damaged areas to the pool hall and changing space, to make the site safe and clear the debris. This was a low value package of work and was tendered through a single-stage competitive tender. The scope of works included general demolition of any unsafe areas of the building and clearance to enable closer inspection of the key structural members.

The second phase of the project included further temporary works, key structural repairs and general enabling works to support the main project. Martin Arnold fulfilled the roles detailed above under a traditional basis for the first two phases, assuming responsibility for the design and specification of the works to prepare the project for the rebuild. We were required to liaise with several additional technical experts and sub-consultants to ensure that the relevant mechanical and electrical plant, along with the pool heating and filtration system had been inspected and the condition clearly ascertained.

The final phase was procured on a design & build basis. Martin Arnold fulfilled the role of Employer’s Agent, overseeing the reconstruction of the pool hall and changing facilities, along with a range of other areas within the centre to interface the existing (in use) building with the fire damaged areas. Under the role of Cost Consultant, we were required to provide in depth cost analysis to the Client for feedback to the building insurers and were required to keep a close check on available budgets and approved spend.

The project did not come without its challenges; Storms Ciara and Dennis caused some logistical issues at the start of the project in February 2020, followed by the obvious disruption of the Covid-19 Pandemic in the many months that were to follow. The forced closure of the public areas of the centre allowed works in some areas to be progressed quicker than originally programmed and the project is now approaching Practical Completion, with the centre ready to welcome customers back to the facility upon the reopening of the leisure facilities this Spring in accordance with the Government’s plan.

Read More Here

Maidstone Borough Council Delivers Town Centre Homes

Martin Arnold are delighted to have helped Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) deliver 47 new homes in the town centre site on Brunswick Street. The contemporary development consisting of apartments and houses is a mixed tenure project that includes market rent, private sale properties, and much needed affordable housing.

Appointed at feasibility stage, Martin Arnold acted as Cost Consultants to develop several feasibility options alongside MBC’s appointed Planning Architect; providing expert cost advice based upon our experience of delivering new homes in Kent.

The site was identified by MBC themselves and incorporates a car park they already owned and some adjacent parcels of land that had commercial uses which were detrimental to the local environment.

Due to the site’s location, the proposed residential scheme meant that the redevelopment would improve the local area in terms of noise and air pollution, as well as enhance the ecological and sustainable value of the area.

Later, taking on the role of Employer’s Agent, Martin Arnold developed the Employer’s Requirements alongside the development of the planning design for reserved matters. Upon receiving a successful planning approval, Martin Arnold tendered the project to let the build contract to an appropriate contractor, as well as sourcing and securing MHS as the affordable housing partner.

During the tender period for the contractor services, the possibility of a Joint Venture partnership between MBC and the winning contractor/developer was reviewed and Martin Arnold advised on potential JV models that would suit; affording consideration to what would help MBC profile their risk and add value in terms of private sales experience.

Following successful commercial negotiations, we continued to act as Employer’s Agent for MBC in the construction phase and carried on working in partnership with MHS Homes and MBC’s developer partner, Purelake New Homes, to deliver a successful project during a challenging time.

Read More Here

RICS Conflict Avoidance

Martin Arnold are proud signatories of the RICS Conflict Avoidance Pledge. Following the Covid-19 Pandemic, the UK Government has continued to urge parties in contracts to;
Act responsibly and fairly
Support the response to Covid-19, and
Protect jobs and the economy.
The Pledge was initiated by several of the UK’s leading professional bodies for construction and engineering, called the Conflict Avoidance Coalition Steering Group, means Martin Arnold will:
Be a good ethical company.
Develop and maintain good business relationships and manage problems early and amicably, and this process is a keystone of our day-to-day commercial operations.
Be fully committed to delivering value for money and working collaboratively to ensure projects are delivered on time, on budget and on par.
The full Pledge can be found on the RICS website – Conflict Avoidance Pledge.