Summer Newsletter 2021

In this issue:

Proud Signatories of the Building A Safer Future Charter

This month (June 2021) marked the 4th anniversary of the fire that devastated Grenfell Tower. The tragic loss of 72 lives rightly saw the construction industry enter a state of introspection as we, collectively, sought to learn lessons from the disaster and ensure that such a tragedy could not happen again.

2018 saw the publication of the Hackett review, “Building a Safer Future,” which set out more than 50 recommendations intended to apply to new and existing high-rise residential properties 10 storeys high or more, while also suggesting that certain recommendations should be applied to a wider set of buildings.

In response, the Construction sector established the “Building a Safer Future Charter” which established five key pledges to demonstrate a commitment to putting the safety and lives of building occupiers before any other building considerations.

Martin Arnold are signatories of this charter and are proud to be active proponents of a positive cultural/behavioural change in the safety of the built environment, using the Charter Commitments as an instrumental tool for improving building safety by correcting current practice and behaviours.

The five Charter Commitments are:
Collaborate to spearhead culture change and be the voice of building safety across our sector.
Be transparent in the interests of safety, sharing key information with residents, clients, contractors and statutory bodies in a useful and accessible manner in the design, construction and occupation phases of the process.
Make safety a key factor of choice in who we work with, ensuring that building safety is placed at the centre of selection decisions without compromising quality or value for money
Ensure that the voices and safety of residents, visitors and employees are central in our decision making processes
Set out and communicate clear responsibilities within our organisation and with our partners, ensuring everyone with a stake in the building during design, construction and occupation understands their role and has the time and resources they need to achieve and maintain building safety
The BSF Charter has been highlighted by Dame Hackett as a major force in creating a fundamental shift in the culture and leadership of the construction industry, two aspects that were highlighted in the Hackett Report as contributing to the cause of the disaster.

Delivering Affordable Homes & Fire Safety in Higher Risk Residential Buildings

Having worked closely with the affordable housing sector for over two decades, we know that Higher Risk Residential Buildings (HRRBs) are vital to clients as they strive to tackle the housing crisis. Often, they are the only viable option for unlocking sites and providing the volumes of housing units required to meet increasing demand, especially in urban areas where space is at a premium. As such, the industry is going to need to continue developing and constructing HRRBs to meet the challenges posed by the housing shortage, the increasing demand for affordable housing, and the need to replace overcrowded or unsuitable homes with new homes that meet high quality standards.

Martin Arnold has spent the last few years assisting our clients in meeting these challenges, taking into consideration the Hackett review and the uncertainty regarding which of its recommendations will be applied to Building Regulations in the future.

As such, we have identified three distinct phases that our clients need to be mindful of when planning how to successfully deliver affordable housing through the development of an HRRB:
The first phase is now or, as we have termed it, “the transition phase.”
The second phase is soon or, as we call it, “the impact phase.”
And the final phase is the longer-term future, “the management phase.”
The transition phase has seen Clients relying less-and-less on manufacturers self-certifying that their products are fit for purpose or contractors self-certifying that a building is fully compliant. Instead, clients are increasingly appointing third party experts to inspect works in progress, provide quality control and quality assurance, and ensure that effective Fire Safety measures are in place. These inspections can include EWS1 inspections & reports, fire stopping inspections, fire door inspections, and fire risk assessments to name but a few.

The challenge of integrating an additional inspection regime into the live construction process can, if not co-ordinated effectively, raise issues for clients. Firstly, there is the question of the time and resources needed to manage inspections. Secondly, there is the potential for disputes from contractors who are convinced that the work they have done is fully compliant and argue against a consultant that suggests otherwise. Clients are then left with the difficulty of having to assess a hierarchy of validity, all in the face of potential contractual delays, potential retrospective works and variations, and possible claims.

The most successful clients are engaging early and appointing third party consultants as soon as possible. Clients are appointing directly, integrating consultants into the design team where possible, and into the delivery team where construction has already begun. They also recognise that a genuine and positive Team Integration is vital in ensuring that their developments are delivered to the required quality standards and minimum financial impact.

The sharing of information is therefore central to a successful project. It is also in keeping with the Hackett Review’s assertion that “There needs to be a golden thread for all complex and high-risk building projects so that the original design intent is preserved and recorded, and… any changes go through a formal review process involving people who are competent and who understand the key features of the design.”

Shared information, aligned goals, and drawing upon expertise ensures that contractors, clients, consultants, and the supply chain all share a common vision of the design and processes that they are following. This, in turn, leads to less conflict, less uncertainty, more collaboration and faster problem solving. Not only does this minimise delays and/or the need for snagging, defect management and retrospective works, but it also ensures that the building itself is safer for residents to occupy and easier and more cost efficient for the client to maintain.

Many contractors are comfortable with this approach and recognise the added value that expert advice can provide in the design and delivery stage. Where consultants are integrated into the design and project teams at as early as a stage as possible, it allows contractors to incorporate milestone inspections into their programme and build contingency into the critical path. Such a collaborative approach minimises the likelihood of contractual disputes, particularly over programme delays or quality issues.

Our advice, therefore, is simple: engage all parties early, be transparent, align goals, share knowledge, and do not sacrifice on quality.

The Impact Phase is likely to cause further challenges, and we will be discussing these in our next newsletter.

Tender Price Indices for 2021

Inflation in construction costs has been headline news in recent weeks and our experience is that the current issues have potential to affect every project we are involved with. When the BBC become interested in reporting on construction costs, you know there is something going on!

The causes of the problems are varied and complex. In normal times, periods of boom and bust tend to vary across different economies however we are now seeing a truly global rebound in demand for construction, and this is affecting materials prices across Europe, North America and China. Add in supply issues such as production of certain materials being reduced due to previous Covid restrictions, the Suez Canal blockage, increased checking and administration at ports and new rules on hauliers leading to a shortage of drivers means we have the ‘perfect storm!’

In particular, supply issues are being reported in respect of timber, steel, pitched roofing, plastics and paints/coatings, some electronic components and bagged cement. The Office for National Statistics projects a rise of 7-8% in material prices, with increases for certain materials, such as timber, expected to more than double during the course of the year.

With demand rising in the market and, generally, all contractors busy, these prices rises will be passed on to clients through tender processes.

We are advising our clients to be wary of this for any projects due to be tendered in the coming months as it is possible that we will see a sudden, and potentially significant, shift in the market.

For projects on site, we are also advising that clients should work with contractors wherever possible to understand potential issues. All material supply issues should be carefully recorded by the contractor wherever possible in order to discuss any potential delay issues in an open and transparent manner.

The BCIS forecast below shows that they are forecasting quarter-upon-quarter inflation of approximately 1% for the rest of the year (4% per annum) and this level being sustained into 2022. This is the most significant inflation in construction costs for some time. The Martin Arnold team believe we may see some more significant increases across the remainder of the summer, however this remains to be seen and will be closely monitored by all.

Joint Venture Success at Union Street

Martin Arnold recently supported Maidstone Borough Council as Developer in their first Joint Venture endeavour.

Union Street is one of two car park sites in Maidstone town centre that were identified for simultaneous development. This was conceived as a flagship scheme for Maidstone Borough Council, enabling them to deliver their first new-build homes for Private Sale. Leveraging a ‘shared risk, shared reward’ strategy has enabled MBC to raise revenue to fund public services in the borough. The scheme saw the redevelopment of an existing car park in central Maidstone to deliver 47 no. contemporary units in a mix of private and affordable tenures, while also providing a new, smaller public car park as well as private parking for some of the properties.

The success of the partnership is reflected in the delivery of high-quality, generous and modern family homes. These homes are spread over three floors and were designed to provide ample space and light. Highlights include well-proportioned reception rooms, private outside balconies, and fully appointed kitchens featuring handleless cabinets and branded appliances. All elements within each home were chosen because they offered practicality, durability and energy-efficiency. The sustainability of these new homes was further boosted by the installation of photovoltaic solar panels and electric charging points for electric vehicles.

Our role as Employer’s Agent necessitated the effective management of separate contractual relationships between Maidstone Borough Council as Developer, MHS Homes as S106 partner and Purelake as Contractor. Martin Arnold have ensured the needs and goals of all stakeholders have been aligned throughout the project to ensure a collaborative spirit is upheld. We were also instrumental in overcoming the challenges posed by COVID-19, working with the Client and contractor to devise a broad suite of Site Procedures specifically to manage/prevent the spread of coronavirus, drawing heavily from guidance from the Construction Leaders’ Council to ensure that the site remained COVID secure.
Read More Here

Affordable Homes through Refurbishment at King’s Road

Martin Arnold recently supported Moat Homes in the conversion of an existing Victorian building to provide 4No. one-bedroom flats, and the erection of a two-storey extension at the rear of the site in order to provide 2No. one-bedroom flats. The project included all associated off-street parking and a communal amenity area of at least 25m2 per flat with scooter charging provision of the new and surrounding residents.

One of the client’s main drivers for this project was the fact that the existing building did not meet either Building Regulations or their own standards. MA dedicated time to survey the existing building to holistically review its condition prior to works commencing, as well as reviewing plans for the refurbishment and the new build section.  We were then able to highlight areas within the existing building where the Client’s typical new-build requirements could be incorporated so that there was no differentiation between the existing building and new-build internally. Considerations also had to be made in respect of the prior planning consent and surrounding area(s).

The critical challenge on this project was agreeing a detailed and precise schedule of works for contract purposes with a very restricted budget for refurbishment.  As the budget was limited, we interrogated the findings of our surveys to identify and query aspects of the planned works that were not necessary while instructing additional items of work that would ensure that the building was both fit for purpose and more economical to maintain for many years to come. Through value engineering efforts, we were able to help the Client and Contractor deliver the project on time and to budget.

An additional complication posed during the construction phase was the managing of works during the Covid-19 pandemics, particularly the Lockdown (March to May 2020) and during the tightened restrictions of November and post-Christmas. We collaborated with the Contractor to devise a broad suite of Site Procedures specifically to manage/prevent the spread of coronavirus, drawing heavily from guidance from the Construction Leaders’ Council to ensure that the site remained Covid secure. This meant limiting the number of activities taking place simultaneously and limiting the number of people who were allowed on site at any one time to enable workers to maintain social distancing from their colleagues. We also had to constantly review the construction programme and field procurement concerns with the project team to ensure, where safe and practicable, works could continue and follow the programme as closely as possible.

Read More Here

British Legion Rides Again

Martin Arnold are once again proud to be supporting the Royal British Legion Industries (RBLI) with their Ride with a Veteran over the weekend of 16th to 18th July.

This will be our team’s third event with the RBLI. In 2018 and 2019 we completed the trip from the RBLI’s home in Aylesford to Ypres but complications in 2020 meant that our planned ride was unable to go ahead so our team is eager to get back into the saddle. Due to the ongoing restrictions, the RBLI made the decision to change the destination to Meriden near Birmingham, the site of the National Cycling Memorial. The distance will still be 150 miles, cycled over 2 days, ending with a wreath laying ceremony at the National Cycling Memorial.

We will be riding with people with a wide range of abilities including a student from King’s School in Rochester, a Chelsea Pensioner as well as younger veterans, serving soldiers, RBLI Trustees and many corporate and individual sponsors.

The RBLI are a fantastic charity that Martin Arnold are very pleased to be working with, as they provide much needed support, helping veterans to find employment and careers after leaving the Forces. The RBLI offer back to work support, housing and care and general support for Veterans and the Armed Forces community.

The previous rides have been extremely fun, challenging and thought provoking and, most importantly, have helped to raise an incredible amount of money to help fund the vital support that the RBLI provides. This year the team will once again be led by our Director, Tom Hopkins, who will be joined by colleagues Chris Los, David Powell and a friend of Martin Arnold, Daren Nathan.

We hope to continue our fundraising as we have previous years, so would value any support that you are able to give by visiting and donating on the link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rbliteamma21