Year: September 2015 to November 2016
Approx Value: £8 million (3 phases)
Client: Nottingham City Homes (via EEM)

"SBS and PermaRock have provided NCH with an outstanding delivery model that focuses strongly on quality. The collaboration with PermaRock ensures that the technical installation is of the highest standard possible and their self-motivation to exceed expectations and delivery KPI targets is a credit to both companies."
Leanne Edmond, Nottingham City Homes

Introduction:

In 2015, Sustainable Building Services (UK) Ltd (SBS) won a contract to install external wall insulation (EWI) to over 1,100 private and social housing properties in Nottingham. The work was procured by Nottingham City Homes (NCH) via the Efficiency East Midlands (EEM) solid wall insulation framework. SBS was awarded the work on the basis of its commitment to delivering quality, best value and social benefits within the local community - including the creation of local jobs.

The project’s immediate challenge was the issue of planning permission. All the properties selected for treatment were made of solid brick and the local authority had concerns about whether the externally insulated homes would have any adverse impact upon each area’s character and appearance. Consequently, for several months prior to works commencing, representatives of SBS and the EWI system designer, PermaRock Products worked closely with NCH, taking an active, collaborative role in design, detailing and planning meetings. By providing product samples, visualisations and other evidence, they demonstrated to local authority planners that the result would only enhance the quality and appearance of the housing stock. Planning consent was duly granted.

Taking a partnering approach with its supply chain also helped NCH to achieve greater cost certainty on the scheme, to agree the most cost-effective designs and detailing from the outset, and to apply a number of best practice techniques. Important elements included full resident engagement at every stage of the customer journey, using ECO funding to support works to social and private properties, and establishing pilot properties that residents could then visit - either to seek refuge from ongoing works to their own homes or to see how the finished work would look.

The Project:

The scheme itself was divided into three distinct phases and incorporated over 30 different property archetypes. Phase 1 focused on 355 properties in the Lenton Abbey area, all made of solid brick but comprising a mix of semi-detached, mid-terrace and end-terrace houses. The same energy-saving works were promoted to private residents in the area. Phase 2 focused on 135 NCH properties in Sneinton and the third phase entailed treating 560 solid brick properties in Aspley.

Aware that effective resident liaison was key to achieving timely completions, SBS appointed three Resident Liaison Officers (RLO) from within the local community and one Private RLO to maintain dialogue with homeowners. They soon developed an easy rapport with residents and their contributions proved invaluable.

Together, SBS and PermaRock set up a bespoke facility to provide operatives, local apprentices, NCH and other stakeholders with high quality, project-specific training. In all, more than 375 operatives underwent training through the facility. The training centre accurately reproduced the detailing of the various property archetypes. This accelerated progress on site because it meant that the trained staff could move straight from working on one property type to another.

To maintain both quality and progress, SBS site managers made routine inspections and oversaw a system of key 'quality holding points' that required inspection and sign-off before work could continue. SBS also benefited from ongoing quality inspections by on-site PermaRock technicians who worked full time on the scheme. These measures, together with real-time cloud-based inspection reporting, ensured strict adherence to the specification, and kept the client fully informed throughout.

Whilst work was progressing for NCH, SBS also developed a productive relationship with Nottingham Energy Partnership (NEP). Working together, SBS, NCH and NEP made strenuous efforts to promote the benefits of the scheme/funding to private homeowners, and hosted a series of community marketing events with PermaRock. NEP undertook Green Deal assessments, issued EPCs and took initial deposits. All partners used cloud-computing to share funding data and progress reports. Delivery was overseen by E.ON's full-time inspector who shared office space with SBS, PermaRock and NCH's project liaison officer.

The use of ECO and Green Deal Communities funding made the prospect of EWI installation very attractive to many private residents, as did the economies resulting from the fact that SBS staff, materials and equipment were already present in the neighbourhood. In all 105 homeowners and their families were able to take advantage of the subsidised works.

Results:

Work proceeded at an excellent pace. Ultimately, all NCH properties were completed on budget, three months ahead of schedule. KPI data showed consistently ‘excellent’ customer satisfaction scores and a predictability score (time-by-property) of 98.6%. Strict quality controls ensured that all properties were accepted at handover, with no rectification notices issued in any of the three phases.

As a result of the works, thousands of local residents now enjoy better living conditions, improved energy efficiency and appreciable annual savings on their energy bills.

The work also created substantial training and employment opportunities for local people. SBS achieved this through the use of local labour for the site management team, sub-contractors and operatives. To service the contract, it also established a local warehousing and distribution facility, and separate offices, which again created more jobs within the community. It also worked closely with the Nottingham Employment Hub to generate three local apprenticeships - thereby further enhancing the scheme's contribution to local training and employment. Ultimately, more than 40% of the workforce on the scheme was based within 10 miles of the centre of Nottingham.

Speaking on behalf of Nottingham City Homes, chief executive Nick Murphy said: "I have just been out to see the external wall insulation at Lenton Abbey and it looks fantastic.  We had tenants coming out of their homes to let us know how fabulous the work is. The contractor, SBS, has done a great job and employed local people and taken on apprentices.  They are doing up the Sheila Roper Centre as a bonus for local residents...  Hundreds of tenants will be benefiting from warmer homes. This is a massive 'well done' to all the site delivery team and the subcontractors. Keep up the good work everyone. An amazing team."

Such was the scheme's success that it featured as an example of industry best practice in a major independent report commissioned by the UK Government. Dr Peter Bonfield's report 'Each Home Counts' cited the scheme's emphasis on quality, the clarity of the offer, cost certainty, consistency of delivery, supply chain collaboration and the maintenance of "the highest quality standards" by the project partners.

Residents' Verdicts:

Residents greatly appreciated the efforts of the RLOs and other staff to maintain good communications. One noted:  "I was given lots of information, so I was able to stay with friends for a day when the drilling was done." Residents also found that the EWI system produced an immediate improvement in their properties' warmth. One said: "I noticed the house was warmer as soon as the boards went up."

Another remarked: "We noticed the difference straight away and we have the heating on much less now. When we do turn it on, it only needs to be on for a few hours.  As well as making the house warmer, the cladding on the outside looks fantastic; our house now looks really smart. The communication from the team was great and we knew what was happening every step of the way. I really can’t praise the team enough for their hard work and customer service.”

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