What are the big changes you expect to see in Major Projects in 2023?
The big change I’m seeing at the moment is simply a lot more schemes coming through the Major Projects team.
That is either because they have reached the £25m threshold which they might not have done a year ago without inflation, or because there’s a real push towards maximising space. You could argue that the best area for that is to build up, vertically.
How does that affect work for the Major Projects team?
For us, when we deal with a 100-unit scheme of, say, 15 storeys or we deal with a 50-unit scheme of six storeys, it’s the same kind of design work and the same kind of up-front responsibilities.
Of course, there are more inspections, there’s a bigger footprint to manage, but scale isn’t daunting – a scheme twice the size in height and numbers isn’t twice the difficulty for our technical team to deal with.
What other changes are coming in Major Projects schemes?
I’m seeing a lot more social housing across the board. Many of my recently-won sites seem to be more traditional social housing, council-led schemes.
There is of course a challenge at the moment with people securing mortgages, so the more we can move away from a reliance on open market led schemes, the better.
This puts us in a much better position, less dependent on interest-rate hikes, less affected by any dip in the housing market.
Are the Major Projects customers asking for different things in their conversations with you?
A bit, yes. There’s always the evolving element of modern methods of construction, and how the industry changes there. But that’s good, because that plays into one of our strength areas as we have such a high quality technical team.
Schemes have become more bespoke – each scheme’s a bit different than it’s ever been because of design changes, planning changes, guidance or just a desire to stick out from the rest of the crowd.
This again suits us as it feeds into another strength area of ours in early engagement. We can anticipate problems before they occur by providing design certainty and we enable customers to procure systems/products early in the process to potentially capture savings in an inflationary environment.
We also provide certainty in our warranty pricing, thereby impacting positively on the viability of the scheme.
Are you doing anything differently because of the wider economic challenges?
I’m promoting the benefits of early engagement more than ever. This may put LABC Warranty more ‘at-risk’ while orders become formalised, but it also gives us an ability to prove ourselves technically and get our feet firmly under the table while the negotiations are ongoing.
When Major Projects customers do come to LABC Warranty, what can we do to help them?
If we’re involved early enough, and influencing these procurement decisions on materials, products, and systems then we can give the client comfort. We can say yes, your proposed design will either be something we’ve already signed off, or won’t be a problem for us signing off.
Once clients know what they’re designing early enough, they can go out and procure what they need to build, and when we’re involved early we can influence those decisions on materials and systems.
Early engagement isn’t just on a design level, it’s on a procurement and materials level as well, locking in lower costs earlier.
How is the Building Safety Act affecting the conversations you’re having with clients?
It’s certainly a subject that’s routinely brought up on any scheme I’m involved in. There are questions we can’t answer in terms of gateways, what’s happening next, what’s gone to consultation, etc but that’s where our relationship with LABC comes in.
As most of the schemes I’m involved in are over six storeys, it allows me to get Local Authority Building Control involved with confidence and facilitate the opening up and continuing of discussions with the client.
What gives you the greatest cause for optimism over the coming year, or years?
The fact that we have a really strong spread of clients, and a good spread of contractors, architects, and the whole design suite. That leaves us with little reliance on one or two really big clients.
The LABC Warranty Technical Team behind us always gives me confidence. If we take on a job, we know that all the guys are going to perform well on that job and it helps build client relationships.
What gives you sleepless nights?
There’s still a lot of uncertainty, that’s something that is going to affect us all. Volatility and uncertainty are a worry, but they’re the same for everyone – at least that’s how I look at it.
There will always be a need for housing, as we have such a demand for it in this country.
Questions for LABC Warranty?
If you have questions about the LABC Warranty Major Projects service, we’d be happy to tell you more.
You can read more about our service here, and access a form that lets you request a callback to discuss any planner Major Projects – the sooner you get in touch about your development, the more LABC Warranty can do to secure a successful project.
Or, if you already have an LABC Warranty account manager, don’t hesitate to get in touch with them. They would be happy to help you with any enquiry around your next development.