Scotland’s 32 local authority areas have set out future plans within their Strategic Housing Investment Plans (SHIPs) which will see more than 40,000 new homes started by 2024. These plans plot long-term delivery of new build construction projects, which reflect both local and national government policy.

In 2018, Scotland Excel, the not-for-profit Centre of Procurement Expertise for local government, identified a need for a national new build housing framework to make it easier for local authorities and housing associations to engage contractors to support their housing plans.

Jenny Bowles, Category Manager for construction at Scotland Excel explains, “We saw that organisations were spending months going through procurement processes that were often creating bottlenecks for contractors and delaying the start of developments. 

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“We set out to create a framework where most of the work on specifications, terms and conditions had already been agreed upfront, thereby shortening the period required to engage a contractor.”

Scotland Excel met with Scotland’s Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers (ALACHO) to discuss the idea of a national collaborative framework, and eleven local authorities came on board to fund and support its development.

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Scotland Excel’s New Build Residential Construction framework went live in August of this year and provides councils and housing associations with quick and easy access to a range of contractors that have already gone through a detailed tender process.  It was formally launched at their new build conference in October, where speakers included the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work, Derek Mackay MSP.  

Jenny Bowles says, “To maximise effectiveness, we agreed with our funders that the framework would be made available to all Scottish councils and housing associations to help significantly reduce the time it takes to commission new build projects right across the country.  Housing associations can access the framework by becoming associate members of Scotland Excel.”

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The type of properties that can be constructed using the framework include single and two-storey houses as well as two-storey to five-storey flats.  To ensure that all needs can be met within a community, the framework also covers other types of residential property such as care homes, supported living accommodation and student accommodation.

“The £1.5bn framework has been developed in close consultation with our members and the industry to respond to 21st century demand for affordable housing,” adds Jenny Bowles.

“It supports the use of modern methods of construction, including offsite construction, as well as cutting-edge energy efficiency specifications.  It also provides assurances that all contractors on the framework meet rigorous standards, have the necessary accreditations, and pay due attention to fair work practices.”

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A full suite of contract documents including terms and conditions, templates and guidance is available to facilitate contract placement, and an online pricing tool makes it easy to generate a draft quote based on criteria such as the size of development, type of accommodation, and a range of options for varying the standard specifications.

Scotland Excel is providing full contract management support for the framework, including ongoing monitoring of the supply chain with regards to financial standing, quality, and health and safety management.  Financially there are terms designed to tackle poor payment practices including the option to set up a project bank account which ring-fences payments for sub-contractors.

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The framework has been designed specifically for the Scottish market and is structured to maximise local economic impact.  Split geographically by council area it ensures that projects can be awarded to the best value contractors for that area.   

Jenny Bowles says, “Local economic impact is an important part of the framework and the terms explicitly encourage the use of local labour and materials. We also require contractors to advertise any new sub-contracting opportunities on Public Contracts Scotland, which opens up opportunities to local firms.”

Community benefits within the framework have a specific focus on construction workforce skills and gaps which will benefit the industry as well as create jobs and training for local areas.  Contractors have also committed to engaging with local supported businesses and social enterprises within their supply chain.

“It’s very early days,” adds Jenny Bowles. “However, there was a real buzz about the framework at our conference, and we have had excellent feedback from councils, housing associations and contractors.

“There is also a strong community element to the framework in its widest sense, with an emphasis on generating local economic well-being.  We are confident that it will help our members build modern, comfortable, energy efficient homes that residents can be proud of.    

“Fundamentally, we estimate that the framework will save councils and housing associations a total of £5m per annum over the next four years, underscoring sustainable procurement’s ability to do more with less.”  

For further information on Scotland Excel visit www.scotland-excel.org.uk