Collaboration in the Housing Sector is the Key – An EA’s Perspective

As the weeks pass by, they seem to merge into one. With life changing for the foreseeable future as we get to grips with the recently termed ‘the new norm’, how we are spending our time is what defines us.  There is a growing sense in the sector that the time we have recently been afforded, has been very useful in providing an opportunity to reflect.  Using this time to look at how we can better deliver a collaborative approach to building borne by the sense of national comradery that we witness daily – through acts of simple kindness; helping a neighbour, clapping for the NHS – to work closer, with compassion and purpose.

Looking back over the last 5 years whilst working with many of the leading Registered Providers (RP’s) in the North West, we have focused on establishing a close relationship with both client and contractor within our appointed Employer’s Agent role.   In founding our Joint Venture service, we have established strong working relationships to support residential developments through a focus on collaboration, to ensure all parties work together to benefit each other.

This close working partnership has seen success and subsequent appointments on over 2400 new build residential homes to date – many of which are affected by the current climate and effect of Covid-19 with construction suspended.  Yet from this sudden pause, there are positives we can take.  Having attended several webinars recently, there is a consistent theme running amongst many of the sectors movers and shakers.  Thoughts regularly revert to learning lessons on how we can improve the sectors approach to align working procedures, relationships and engagement together with building better homes and communities.

Government has again intervened, with further support to the sector with extended furlough and relaxation of working restrictions to encourage the sector to return to work.  Yet the sector must play its part, if we are to emerge from this pandemic with a sense of purpose.  A need to change and reflect on how, what and why we build.

For many years, mass house building has been largely driven to maximise return, where high land value has driven condensed house design and a lack of community facilities, to maintain profit.  However, lockdown measures have changed many of our working lives and driven a sense of heightened community engagement and this needs to reflect how we look to build in the future.

Safer working practices may bring forward differing forms of modern methods of construction (MMC) but this needs to be in collaboration with how and why we design to suit our daily and working lives.  As we’ve seen, many are now working from home but don’t have the space to do so effectively.  For many, the kitchen table has become the new desk, but can our approach to designing future homes change this?  Designing homes which allow for working space may be a consideration, but offering communal space where people interact and encouraging social engagement needs to be a greater focus.

Nevertheless, cost remains a driver, but it needn’t be the only one.  Ultimately a collaborative approach is needed across the sector – starting with the perceived value of land! – to look to add value and build for the future.

We’re lucky as a business to be working with so many great RP’s who are looking at the wider impact of developments to create community and a better way of living through greater place-making.  As they look to their future building programmes with a clear objective to create greater social value, we are proud to support them in their approach.

By working collaboratively in this challenging time, we’ll all see a benefit.