Promising two days of essential content, Housing Brighton didn’t disappoint. The event explored some of the biggest issues in the sector ranging from supply, affordability, funding, safety and sustainability through to tenant engagement, customer service, homelessness, and the future of work.

Representatives from Diamond Build PLC, Diamond Special Works and Diamond Fire Safety attended to discuss key topics with local authorities, housing associations and their consultants. Here are our five takeaways:

1. Prepare now for the new building and fire safety regime

The Building Safety Bill received royal assent in April 2022. It covers a range of measures and changes aimed at ensuring greater accountability for fire and structural safety issues throughout a building’s lifecycle.

It will take between 12 and 18 months for most of the new obligations to come into force. A Residents Panel, which gives residents a voice in the Building Safety Regulator’s work, is expected to be one of the first measures introduced along with changes to the Fire Safety Order and additional powers for regulating construction products.

All those involved in building and managing properties are advised to prepare now for the new regime and the potential impact on their roles and responsibilities. The breadth of the Bill means there could be a steep learning curve ahead for many in the sector, so sharing knowledge and a proactive approach to building safety and training will be crucial.

2. Fixed Prices Can’t Be Guaranteed

The challenge of fixed-price contracts sparked several debates and pointed to the urgent need for flexibility.

Soaring energy costs combined with the war in Ukraine and shortages of materials and labour are creating a perfect storm for main contractors, making material costs and lead times difficult to predict for new projects. This is understandably a concern for clients, especially those in the public sector, however we must be honest about the environment we are operating in.

Without cost flexibility and allowance for fluctuation, there is a huge risk that new construction projects will fail to get off the ground or stall once on site.

3. Two heads are better than one

Solving the UK’s housing crisis is a huge challenge that will require a joined-up approach. Collaboration across the housing sector is key, so we can share resources, skills and knowledge that not only helps to identify opportunities for boosting supply, but delivering homes that meet environmental and quality standards.

A good example of collaboration in action is the National Housing Group (NHG). The organisation acquires and develops properties with a focus on quality and sustainability. Its partnerships with housing associations, councils and charities enable the properties to be let out to those in need, including vulnerable individuals who are often neglected and find it challenging to secure housing.

4. Diversity is key to a post-pandemic workplace

As highlighted by the Housing Forum, the sector has a strong track record in creating opportunities for increasing skills. In challenging times, this has never been more important.

Identifying ways in which we can encourage more people into the construction sector, especially underrepresented groups, is crucial. This will require organisations to look more forensically at their approach to diversity and inclusion, and how we can work with schools and colleagues to change perceptions and break down barriers.

Navigating challenges

As a specialist contractor for the public sector, the Diamond Build Group has extensive experience of the housing sector. In the year ahead, we will be working closely with local authorities and housing associations to help them address key issues, including advising our clients on fire safety, delivering high-quality homes as efficiently as possible, and playing a part in bringing new and diverse talent into the sector.

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