NHF’s Building Better alliance hunts for manufacturers to join £600m offsite homes framework

Building Better, the National Housing Federation-supported alliance of housing associations developing offsite solutions for the social housing sector, has begun a search for three manufacturers to deliver its first framework for modern methods of construction (MMC).

Procurement for Housing is working with Building Better to develop the £600m volumetric framework which will go live in Spring 2021. The 25 housing associations that make up the alliance have committed to manufacturing 800 homes via the new framework and they have a broader pipeline of 4,500 properties that will be produced using modern methods of construction over the term of the five-year framework. Building Better is keen for more housing providers to join the alliance, so this pipeline may grow further over the next few years.

The framework is for ‘MMC Category 1 Construction Systems’, covering pre-manufactured, three-dimensional buildings that are factory-produced and delivered to site. There are three lots: low rise houses, medium rise flats and a combination of both, with one manufacturer to be appointed to each lot on a direct call-off basis.

Procurement for Housing will conduct a ‘competitive dialogue’ with interested manufacturers, discussing options with them and listening to their feedback on what the market has to offer before the final specification is compiled. Manufacturers will then be invited to submit final tenders for a place on the framework.

The procurement process will conclude in Spring 2021 with successful bidders appointed to the volumetric framework on a direct-award basis, meaning they won’t have to engage in further competition to win contracts with individual housing providers. It is hoped that five offsite schemes will be in the ground by the end of 2021.

Procurement on a separate ‘MMC Category 2 Construction Systems’ framework will begin in Spring / Summer 2021. This will cover pre-manufactured two-dimensional panelised systems that are assembled on site to form 3D structures.

Trina Chakravarti, Project Director of Building Better said: “Offsite manufacturing will only work in social housing through meaningful collaboration. That means housing providers aggregating their demand so manufacturers can sustain their factories. But it also means the sector engaging with manufacturers and being open to the development process rather than having a predetermined idea of the product they want.”

Steve Malone, CEO at Procurement for Housing said: “One reason why offsite construction has failed in the past is the lack of genuine partnership work with manufacturers at the procurement phase. Many social landlords approach suppliers with a fully formed idea of the home they want; but being so prescriptive doesn’t work in an offsite market that is still developing. We’ve designed a procurement process that allows honest discussions with manufacturers before a tender spec is finalised.”

In September the Government announced that it will make modern methods of construction central to its new £11.5bn affordable homes programme. Social landlords that sign up to ‘strategic partnerships’ under the programme will have to use offsite manufacturing to produce at least 25% of their new homes.

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