Collaborative Construction Procurement - a Model for Social Housing?

Recent experience from the UK suggests that substantial savings and benefits to residents, authorities, and the supply chain can be achieved using partnering and collaborative approaches to social housing procurement and refurbishment projects.

The UK construction industry has been very active in the past twenty years in developing new forms of construction contracts and procurement practices. This is partly as a response to the significant challenges of delivering major projects such as the London Underground upgrades, the construction of Heathrow T5, and the development of the venues for the 2012 London Games.

The potentially harmful effect of adversarial relationships in construction projects was recognised and addressed in the UK following a number of influential reports from the 1990s the most influential of which was the Latham Report of 1994. The Latham Report promoted partnering over the adversarial model of procurement, adjudication of disputes, and greater use of alternative forms of contract such as the New Engineering Contract.

A number of forms of contract in use in the UK and internationally draw on the principles of partnering and collaboration. The main benefits include early contractor involvement in design, opportunities for value engineering and cost savings through Employer-contractor collaboration for sub-contract packages, and a systematic approach to identification and management of risks.

Collaborative procurement can be particularly beneficial for resident involvement and consultation in social housing projects. Phoenix Community Housing Association in London uses a Community Gateway model to deliver improvements and maintain social housing. The Community Gateway structure itself is innovative as it is based on tenant membership and participation and thus supports resident engagement and participation in all stages of a project. In 2011 the Association entered into a £45m contract using a multi-party partnering contract for external works to social housing. The Association claimed that its use of the partnering approach enhanced resident involvement and communication, as well as a timely start on site, due to partnering with the contractor.

Another striking example is the use of partnering contracts to achieve an average of 31% savings over traditional procurement models on £200m worth of social housing refurbishment projects in Hackney and Haringey in London. The housing bodies reported a number of benefits from the use of partnering contracts, including significantly decreased bid costs for subcontractors, which has been identified as a major problem in Ireland in a review of the Public Works contracts, and to increased tenant participation and satisfaction levels.

In light of Ireland’s significant backlog in delivery of social housing, innovative approaches to procurement and construction should be considered as part of potential solutions.

For further information contact Fiona Brennan on

Keywords: Publication, Construction, Deirdre Ní­ Fhloinn

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