Spring Newsletter 2024

In this issue:
  • Scheme Shortlisted For Retrofit Award
  • 242 Homes Delivered for Brighton JV
  • A1 EWS1 Rating for Gary Court
  • TPI Update
  • Sussex Scheme Handed Over
  • Building Safety Act
  • Events: CIH Brighton and UK REIF

Barnsbury Estate Project Shortlisted for Retrofit Award

We were thrilled to see the Barnsbury Estate Regeneration project shortlisted for the Best Social Housing Retrofit Programme Award at the Retrofit Academy CIC Awards 2024. Martin Arnold have been acting as Project Management Consultant and Retrofit Coordinator on the project, working alongside client Housing Association Newlon Housing and Architects Pollard Thomas Edwards.

The masterplanning project is delivering a transformation of the existing Barnsbury Estate which involves building hundreds of new homes as well as retrofitting 275 existing properties to improve their energy performance and reduce energy bills. Resident consultation has been at the heart of the development with the design team hosting presentations and workshops, as well as distributing newsletters. Newlon have also maintained an active presence on site, allowing residents to contact the housing association to inform the design proposals.

A single block was selected as the focus for the first phase of the development, helping to set the most efficient design and sustainability strategy which will then be applied to the remaining blocks. Pollard Thomas Edwards’ team of Architects and Passive House Designers have implemented a fabric-first approach involving increasing loft insulation, replacing windows and using external wall insulation wrapped in brick slips. MVHR systems has also been introduced as well as electric boilers, in place of gas boilers. New kitchen and bathrooms also form part of the plans, as well as a range of new layout options. The focus has been on delivering homes which are warmer, mould free, promote improved air quality and are space efficient.

Martin Arnold have been taking on a range of retrofitting project over the past few years to enable our clients to achieve the construction industry’s 2050 Net Zero Carbon target. This includes both our work at the Barnsbury Estate as well as working with RB Greenwich on a £21m project to retrofit 665 homes. To find out more about our service offering, click here.

242 Homes Handed Over For Brighton Joint Venture

Martin Arnold are pleased to see the completion of a 242-home scheme in Coldean, Brighton, on behalf of a joint venture between Brighton and Hove County Council and Hyde Housing. Our team were appointed to deliver Employer’s Agent and Principal Designer services on the new build development comprised of 6 blocks, 162 car parking spaces, 365 cycle parking spaces as well as all statutory services infrastructure, including extensive off-site electricity mains works to feed two sub-stations needed to power a fully electric scheme.

Sustainability has been a core design driver for the project with PV panels installed on all blocks, a SUDs system to ensure no surface water is piped off site alongside EV charging points and a bicycle scheme which have been integrated into the development.

The project has faced a number of challenges which have been overcome through close collaboration between the parties to the JV, Martin Arnold and the wider consultant team. This has included working with the steeply sloped site which made the location of play areas difficult. Initially, the play areas had been placed on the steepest part of the site and would not have been safe or suitable to use; as a result, considerable terracing works were undertaken to create the play spaces in the locations required to comply with the planning approved design. The steepness of the site also meant that the landscaping had to be carefully considered; many discussions were had with the local authority about what this should look like.

The planning conditions were also challenging, particularly the conditions imposed around trees and ecology. An ecologist had to attend site initially to survey the natural habitat and then on a regular basis to monitor the fauna migration and the mitigation measures which had to be installed. The badgers that were living on the site could only be moved once the proper licenses had been put in place. Existing trees lost because of the required S278 highway works all needed to be replaced along with those that needed to be felled because of disease, and many additional trees were due to be provided as part of the overall landscaping strategy. There was significant collaboration with the local authority about the numbers, locations and species of the new trees.

Highest EWS1 Rating For Gary Court

We are very happy to report that one of our cladding remediation projects, Gary Court, has secured an A1 EWS1 rating, the highest fire safety rating for remediation work.

Appointed by Housing Association Hyde, Martin Arnold provided Contract Administration and Clerk of Works services on the Gary Court project. The building is 9 storeys and comprises 150 homes as well as commercial units on the ground level. The project has involved the replacement of all combustible elements within all of the building’s external walls. 3,500 sqm of brickwork were removed and rebuilt whilst residents remained in situ. The existing bricks were removed, cleaned, stored off-site and returned when ready for relaying. Additionally, there were 5 different wall types across the building, with approximately 4,000 sqm of materials to help reduce the project’s carbon footprint.

Notably, the project was funded by the Government’s Building Safety Fund, meaning no charges were passed on to Hyde’s residents. Our team supported Hyde with applying for the funding.

As Building a Safety Future Champions, our team are committed to supporting our clients with ensuring that their building’s meet the required standards around building safety. To find out more about our Building Safety services, click here.

TPI Update

Construction output for 2024 seems to be on the up with a 1.1% increase in January 2024 compared to the previous month. We are also witnessing the first monthly increase since June 2023 where new work output has increased by 1.1% and Refurbishment and Maintenance (R&M) is seeing a 1.2% increase month-to-month. We believe this is in response to lowering inflation meaning organisations now expect a decrease in interest rates and anticipate an improvement in development viability.

On an annual basis, new work output is down by 7.4% from January 2023 while R&M output has increased by 13% for the same period. Private new housing recorded a 2.6% increase in the month but was down by 15.4% from the same time last year. Public Housing R&M registered a 14.7% increase from January 2023 although slightly on the decline in January 2024. This reflects our experience at Martin Arnold where the Asset Management side of our business is as busy as ever.

Although the industry has emerged from a state of rampant inflation, construction firms are dealing with new challenges of falling demand and stagnating output. With the private sector remaining the most affected by the cost of borrowing impact and stagnant economy, Government plans for the construction industry remain unclear even after the Spring Budget and the updated National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline. It was noted that there was very little to give confidence to investors and firms trying to overcome various challenges of the current market conditions. There was no certainty or detail of the investment in infrastructure commitment nor any real increase in spending announced.

Annual tender price inflation continues to ease – from 8.6% in 1Q2023 to 2.9% in 1Q2024 – and is expected to fall to 1.6% by 4Q2024. Tender price inflation is estimated at 0.5% between 4Q2023 and 1Q2024, resulting in an annual increase of 2.9% in the TPI. All figures from the BCIS.

The BCIS TPI panel registered slightly increased appetite from contractors to tender, compared to the previous quarter, with tenders reported to come in at or under cost plan values possibly due to keenness from contractors to fill in order books for the year ahead and overheads were reported to be coming slightly under what has been observed in the previous year.

The BCIS TPI panel also observed a decline in new orders and anticipated projects going to tender in the next 12 months, compared with the previous year.

Materials cost inflation is reported to have come down but might see some risk built into them following the uncertainty around the Red Sea and the longer lead-in times subsequent to possible diversions in materials routes.

Labour remains a challenge both in availability but also in fewer vacancies and lower wage growth as highlighted by BCIS panellists.

The BCIS Labour Cost Index is forecast to grow by 18% in the next 5-year period, while the BCIS Materials Cost Index, while currently in decline for the past few quarters, is anticipated to increase by about 13% in the forecasted period between 1Q2024 and 1Q2029. The uncertainty continues to be a main characteristic of the economy as well as the construction industry, even if the UK comes out of recession. The unstable climate in the Red Sea and the Middle East remains a determining factor in the risk allocations to material cost build-ups. The high interest rates are also not helpful to the construction industry and the overall economy.

The risk of insolvencies in the supply chain remains with groundworks firms highlighted as particularly vulnerable due to the reduced demand for their services.

The commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the built environment is gaining traction in the construction industry with particular focus being placed on materials choices and the considerations between costs and carbon emissions.

A steering group of the Built Environment Carbon Database has highlighted the transition from the triangle of cost, quality and time considerations to a potential square, with the addition of environmental impact becoming as important as the other considerations.

Mixed-Tenure Scheme in Sussex Handed Over

We are pleased to announce we have completed our work with Sussex Weald Homes on an exciting new build development. Hedgerows is a mixed-tenure development offering 53 Private Sale, Shared Ownership and Affordable Rent residential properties. Our client, Sussex Weald Homes, worked in partnership with Wealden District Council to deliver the affordable properties, creating a truly tenure-blind scheme which positively contributes to the local community.

Alongside offering new homes, the scheme includes the provision of and connection to all statutory utilities, drainage and services. An on-site play area for younger children has also formed part of the scheme.

Martin Arnold were appointed on a package deal with contractor Greymoor to act as both Cost Consultant and Employer’s Agent, taking the scheme from Outline Consent through to Reserved Matters.

Our first task was to carry out a cost review to ensure that SWH were achieving value for money. Post contract, we worked closely with the project team and Wealden District Council, alongside their Employer’s Agent, to ensure that the private and affordable homes were delivered on time and to the correct specification and quality.

The Building Safety Act: Transitional Arrangements and the New Regime

With the impending end of the transitional arrangements for the Building Control Approval for Higher Risk Buildings (HRBs) upon us, our clients must ensure that they are well-equipped for the regulation changes which come into force from the 6th April 2024. For any project containing a HRB that cannot benefit from the transitional arrangements by this date, all future applications for Building Control Approval must be through the Building Safety Regulator (BSR) as part of the Building Safety Act’s new Gateway Two. Where a project is able to benefit from the arrangements, the existing Building Control provider can continue to act as the Building Control body, providing they are individually registered as a Registered Building Control Approver (RBCA).

These arrangements state that the transitional arrangements apply and will need to be followed if a building control body has already been notified of the plans. For this to apply, an initial notice needed to have been given to a local authority (and not have been rejected) on or before 31st October 2023.

To continue to benefit from the transitional arrangements on and after 6th April 2024, the in-scope building work must satisfy the definition of “sufficiently progressed”. The government guidance references a definition of “sufficiently progressed”, which is clear and has two definitions dependent on whether the project is new construction, or work to an existing HRB. Where the former, “sufficiently progressed” is clearly defined as “when the placement of permanent foundations has started”. Where the latter, it states that in the case of work to an existing higher-risk building, or a material change of use, the building work must be sufficiently progressed when the work has started.

If notice is not provided before 6th April 2024 that the work is sufficiently progressed, then under these transitional arrangements it would transfer to the jurisdiction of the Regulator from that date. With this in mind, it is important to be aware of the following required steps:

  • The person carrying out the works must notify the relevant local authority no more than 5 days after your project has sufficiently progressed and before 6th April 2024. Failure to send this notice to the local authority will result in your project transferring to the Building Safety Regulator.
  • If you have an Approved Inspector on the scheme, you are still required to notify the local authority and you should also confirm with your Approved Inspector that the works are sufficiently progressed in their opinion.
  • The individual working on your project must be a suitably registered, Building Inspector. If the organisation providing your Building Control approval cannot assign a suitably registered Building Inspector, the project will need to be transferred to the Building Safety Regulator.

Events: CIH Brighton and UK REiiF

We will be sending our usual delegates to the CIH Conference in Brighton on the 8th and 9th of May. Get in touch if you’d like to meet up while we’re there. We look forward to seeing lots of familiar faces!

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For the second year in a row, Martin Arnold will be taking part in UK REiiF. Last year, we were on one panel whereas this year, we are taking part on two. Managing Director Roger Arnold will be taking part in a session on ‘Partnering: Working Together to Deliver Homes and Placemaking’ on Wednesday the 22nd of May, alongside colleagues Jonathan Corris from Devonshires, Catherine Raynsford from Hyde Housing, Chatinder Bal from MTVH, Craig Horn from Wates and Rachel Wood from Places for London. Panel members will be sharing their experience and lessons learned on working with joint venture models.

Ben will also be delivering a talk on ‘Enhancing Building Safety: Delivering Cladding Remediation under the Building Safety Act’ on Thursday the 23rd of May, alongside GSE. Martin Arnold were the first multidisciplinary practice to be named Building a Safer Future Champions by Dame Judith Hackitt and have extensive experience in helping our clients to ensure their existing buildings are compliant.

Please get in touch if you’d like to meet at UK REiiF – we look forward to seeing our colleagues there.