Category: News

Introducing Nicolas Elia

Nic has been with AMCM Group as a trainee quantity surveyor since July 2017. Over the last year, he has developed his skills from basic invoice logging to procuring and managing packages such as drylining and external landscaping, with the aid of the Commercial Director, Alex Fish.

He has always had a passion to become a quantity surveyor – while working for his previous employer (Site Sales) as an Affordable Homes Consultant, he enrolled with the University of Greenwich to study an HNC Level 4 in Quantity Surveying. He worked with Site Sales for a year until he sold Thurlow Park Road, where the construction management team was… AMCM Group! He soon became an AMCM trainee.

A year on from this point and he has now completed his HNC Level 4 to a Merit Level and has been offered an unconditional place at Westminster University, with the intention to study Quantity Surveying and Commercial Management BSc Honours. His aim is to complete this course in the next three years, to continue studying and then become chartered with the RICS.

Congratulations to Nic on passing his HNC, and we will continue to support him in his career development within Quantity Surveying. These are very positive times for the construction industry and we are proud to offer opportunities to younger workers at the beginning of their career progression. At AMCM Group we take every opportunity to include trainees wherever possible throughout our attractive and sustainable working environments. We enjoy being questioned and challenged, and this continuous improvement process has previously provided valuable innovations to project delivery, ensuring that the industry has a valuable talent base to build upon.

We are making every effort to bridge the skills gap and believe that it is in everyones interests to ensure that young people continue and flourish in their path to a rewarding career in construction. Therefore we are committed to nurturing, supporting and celebrating young people in construction by ensuring that a minimum 10 per cent of AMCM staff are sponsored trainees who have a clear pipeline of opportunity with the company.


Announcing the new AMCM Group website

Announcing the new AMCM Group website

After several months of hard work and dedication, our new AMCM Group website is now live at www.amcm-group.co.uk.

In the past year we have seen significant changes to our company as we continue to expand as a business. And as our team of specialists has grown, we’ve expanded our portfolio of services to meet the increasingly complex needs of our clients.

Innovation and problem solving remain at the very heart of our delivery process, and we are always working to make buildings better. While we are still very much the trusted business we have always been, we wanted to better show the amazing things we do. So here we are, thrilled to announce the launch of our brand new AMCM Group website!

Our main goal with this new AMCM Group website is to provide users with an easy way to learn about our services and solutions. To that end, the new site is much easier to navigate, giving users a better idea of who we are, what we do and who we work with. Furthermore, our project case studies highlight recently completed work and the value created for each client as a result.

New and improved

Among the many new features are integrated social media buttons for Twitter and LinkedIn. This is to help foster improved communication with our communities. In addition we will be constantly updating the site with helpful information, articles, company announcements and project successes.

We hope you find the new AMCM Group website easy to use and that our newly redesigned site tells you everything you need to know about us. We’d love to hear what you think.

 

The new AMCM Group website as viewed on an iMac

Are SMEs the answer to the London housing crisis?

Are SMEs the answer to the London housing crisis? Is big and beautiful the solution? As an SME by definition, I will stand up and say ‘No’ to both of these questions.

However, SMEs are indeed part of the solution to resolving the need for more housing in the UK as a whole, all we can ask is that SMEs are given the opportunity prove ourselves.

The London Housing Strategy

The Mayor of London’s Housing Strategy acknowledges that the number of small sites coming forward has ‘fallen markedly’. In 1988, 12,000 SMEs nationally were responsible for 40% of new homes. Fast-forward to 2017 and 2,500 SMEs are responsible for only 12%. The stats for London are not available, but the trends indicate the percentages are the same.

I have to ask: why is that? Is it because the very good Housing Authorities and contractors who used to deliver those sites are now only interested in the larger schemes?

The Mayor’s strategy states that schemes of over 500 units only account for 14% of completions and the pipeline of approvals not yet completed sits at 278,000. Although 499 units is not ideal for an SME, we all know that a lot of those consents are 1-50 homes which are perfect for SMEs with the right procurement and risk transfer.

One of the oft-quoted reasons for a lack of development is that developers and housebuilders build at rates which maximise their returns. I’ll tell you how I want to maximise my SME returns and it’s simple: we want to work with clients to build more homes and build them quickly!

How to unlock the potential for small sites

Whilst some in our industry started the year feeling positive that completions last year are getting close to the Mayor’s target, new project starts for the year were down which makes me question if this a worrying trend? Are the big regenerations projects, such as Battersea, tailing off? If that is the case, then that opportunity for 10 units right at the heart of your local community or high street is even more important. And the Mayor himself says that small sites are often easier to deliver than the complex regenerations.

As an SME it might not necessarily be the case, as small sites can often be very challenging – requiring relatively large investment just to get them to be developable. At AMCM Group, we take risks and we have a strong balance sheet for an SME of our size. That being said, for the sake of MY family, am I going to put mine and my employees’ livelihoods all at risk for one site? Because we are not talking about a faceless shareholder or the banks taking the risk here; we are talking about experienced individuals and highly-skilled workforces.

If we want to unlock these small sites we must all collaborate in different ways and look at different procurement routes and risk transfer. That doesn’t mean to say that risk cannot be transferred, owned or managed, or that I don’t want a robust contract to be in place because I do. But I believe that there are better ways to use our respective skills and balance sheets.

Section 3.6 of the Housing Strategy proposes that a range of public sector interventions are required, including investment in infrastructure, site clearance and remediation where required, and it is these usually high-risk, high-cost elements that preclude small developers and SMEs from building out these sites. I would ask that local authorities and housing associations are more proactive with their patient investment funds in these kinds of areas, so that we as SMEs can make our capital work harder and faster where it is less likely to have serious consequences if it goes wrong. It’s happening already, but more can be done.

The importance of offsite construction methods

The Mayor says that offsite construction methods account for only 10% of total construction output. He is right in some respects on the actual output, but as an SME I would argue that as we are investing our time and capital in the skills, knowledge and supply chain of designers, manufacturers and contractors in offsite delivery, and it’s difficult to know where to start and where to end when measuring actual delivery processes. We currently do not have a site that is not using some form of offsite manufactured solution. Therefore, the figures the Mayor has quoted do not reflect offsite as a whole.

On almost all of our projects, we have used offsite manufactured of some kind – especially pre-cast columns and lift shafts. We know that it reduces the labour requirements onsite, saves time and money, and has less impact on the local community.

We are currently building using LGS, Timber Frame and SIPPS panels, and our ambition is to become the turnkey contractor of choice for small sites. Not just for our clients, but for manufacturers also – because designing and constructing offsite solutions onsite is a very different process than traditional construction. I am happy and proud to say that we are learning from our mistakes. We have made a few!

Our choices require investment and my final request on behalf of all SMEs is that we are given transparency of the pipeline. That we enter into mutually beneficial relationships built on trust and respect, and that we are given the opportunity to grow and learn together. SMEs are a vital part of the UK construction market, and we are essential to the delivery of housing solutions in London and the rest of the country.

Jon Wardle
CEO, AMCM Group


The Development Partnership Forum addresses the lack of housing stock in the UK and the importance of estate regeneration

When the The Housing Forum’s Development Partnership Forum met in June, the objective was to to discuss possible initiatives to stimulate the UK housing supply and the differing need for housing stock throughout the country.

Questions were raised as to can programme resourcing, capacity testing and Estate Regeneration create the essential new homes we need?

Here we review the key outcomes of the meeting and what this means, in particular for local authorities and the future of council-housing.

It was proposed that local authorities undertaking Estate Regeneration and housing delivery should deploy a complex financial model and project management process, by applying the right skills and governance structures. An audit of the skills available should be undertaken early, recognising that gaps can be filled in a team by a combination of recruitment.

Estate Regeneration is a long-term undertaking that requires that clear objectives are set and understood, plus supported by residents, the wider community, all councillors and senior executives in a local authority. This will require a careful process of consultation and engagement based on good evidence and realistic offers.

Commercial development on the other hand, requires a different culture and approach to finance from local authority funding mechanisms. The right skills from specialist consultants can help to build and/or provide this.

Andy von Bradsky, Architectural Advisor, MHCLG and Chairman of The Housing Forum opened discussions, stating Homes England had been set up with new powers to direct resources to areas of high demand and be more proactive in the housing market, and whilst MHCLG recognised that the housing market is recovering from the 2007 recession, it is still below that peak.

Andy commented: “There were fewer SME house builders than in 2007, with the market dominated by a few large private house builders and although housing associations are taking one third of supply, they could be more susceptible to the housing market.

“Planning reform is still on the Government’s agenda and there are a range of responses to its consultations, with over 1000 on the NPPF. The revised NPPF will be published before summer recess, stating councils will have new powers to deliver Garden Towns and Villages, which can be significant programmes such as Essex and Colchester who are planning 24,000 new home with local led development corporations.”

Other examples include the Greater London Authority’s (GLA) new ‘Building Council Homes for Londoners’, programme which is designed to offer a range of support and more flexible finance arrangements for each council that takes account of its skills and needs.

Rachael Hickman, Senior Area Manager for North East London at the GLA commented: “The GLA’s new funding programme ‘Building Council Homes for Londoners’ will support all London councils with the aim of building 10,000 new affordable homes by March 2022.

“It will be delivered through ambitious strategic partnerships between councils and the GLA, with flexible and tailored support from a menu of potential options. While reform of central Government rules is necessary to support the scale of new council homebuilding that London ultimately needs, the Mayor wants to work with councils to use existing powers and resources to their fullest extent.

“The GLA will work with Future of London to develop a dedicated forum to share best practice, review high-level technical content, and undertake site visits and offer bespoke research to assist councils to build more homes.

“Under the Programme Approach, councils will commit to delivering a headline number of affordable homes (a minimum of 100) broken down by tenure across a portfolio of sites in exchange for an allocation of affordable housing grant. Councils will have flexibility to manage the delivery profile of homes across this portfolio and additional discretion to substitute sites in and out of their portfolio.”

Other housing delivery initiatives were presented, together with discussions on how to further enable Estate Regeneration and do we have adequate resources to facilitate this.

Full details on the outcomes from the meetings can be found on The Housing Forum website.

Find out more: http://www.housingforum.org.uk/our-events/development-partnership-forum/development-partnership-forum


AMCM Group supports The Housing Forum report: ‘Building Better Homes – The quality challenge’

In 2017, AMCM Group was part of a cross-sector working group of The Housing Forum members which investigated how building better quality homes can improve the experience of those living in them.

Building Homes Better – The quality challengeThe group looked into the points of interaction between customers and the housing industry and found systemic failures to provide quality outcomes – either in terms of design quality or customer satisfaction.

The findings of the investigation were published in the ‘Building Homes Better – The quality challenge‘ report. This report highlights where problems occur and what we think can be done about them to achieve a positive change for quality.

AMCM Group CEO Jon Wardle specifically looked at what we are lacking in project delivery, and why quality is vital in ensuring we have a connected and integrated supply chain. The following is an extract from the report:

Harnessing the benefits of an integrated supply chain

It is an all too common fact that when an asset is being designed, procured and manufactured, the processes are owned, managed and executed by 95% of individuals who are salaried, and some might say emotionally invested, in the quality of the product.

However, when the project reaches site, the final aspect of the quality process is very often owned and managed by operatives who are self-employed and only invested in the scheme for that single transaction. Not only do we have a declining labour force, but our current procurement and delivery models manifest a lack of ownership at the very point when quality really counts.

As noted within the foreword of the Farmer Review of the UK Construction Labour Model there is an “absence of alignment between the industry and client interests” and despite this being published in 2016, this is still prevalent today when you consider the intrinsic structure of traditional supply chain models where there is limited, if any connection, between client, suppliers and manufacturers of products specified by designers, installed or assembled by contractors and the operative who is responsible for the quality of the finished product.

A focus on quantity to deliver quality

If clients were to integrate their supply chains, including designers, manufacturers and installers, earlier in the project and even across more than simply one project, then all parties would benefit from greater transparency of forward order books. Greater certainty of volumes would lead to an environment where more parties could naturally invest in R&D and skills development, which would improve productivity and reduce costs. These savings could then be reinvested in quality assurance resources and processes.

A focus on quantity and standardisation must not be seen as a way to reduce costs but a way to increase investment and collaboration.

The importance of a sustainable profit to deliver quality

When industries and businesses generate sustainable margins, R&D and investment inevitably follows. We believe that central and local government should utilise current and future procurement frameworks to provide greater transparency of workloads beyond the traditional models to engage with designers, suppliers, manufacturers and installers in return for transparent investment in quality focused R&D and skills.

By providing the framework and catalyst for investment in the key elements of the development value chain, the Government will influence the private sector as the public and private sectors’ supply chains are intrinsically linked.

Traditionally, the private sector element of housing development has focused on reducing CAPEX to improve and sustain profit margins. However, a successful private rented sector business model is aligned to that of a local authority or housing association asset owning/managing model. This model is one whereby 70% of revenue is impacted by improvements in whole life costs and asset management and ultimately customer/resident satisfaction.

We would recommend that procurement routes that allow joint investment in products and services and skills be created whereby quality and a reduction in whole life costs is a key metric for the private and public sector.

Developing and integrating skills to deliver quality

Whilst the underlying definition of quality should be the same from project to project, there are key elements that are bespoke to each project. It is therefore critical that:

  1. The quality metrics are defined and understood at the beginning of a project including those that are bespoke
  2. That the relevant skills are developed and integrated into the project team to ensure that the client’s and stakeholders’ aspirations are fully met.

Developing and integrating skills is relevant when thinking about being a good client, designer, manufacturer, contractor or self-employed operative and is particularly relevant when considering the impact of new forms of procurement, design, manufacture, construction and quality control.

We would recommend that via the CITB and its industrial strategy, the Government demonstrates leadership and investment to equip the industry to not only survive but to thrive.

This must be done by regulating skills-based programmes and employment initiatives across the broad spectrum of roles within the industry. For example, designers need to be trained in virtual reality and manufacturing processes, we must invest in training to create qualified semi-skilled and skilled operatives in construction manufacturing facilities and, most importantly, on site, which must be seen as the final section of the assembly line where quality concludes rather than diminishes.

In conjunction with these design and production skills, whether by procurement and delivery outputs or by regulation, the role of quality inspection and management must be a skill that is integrated into the delivery process throughout the project brief, design, manufacture and construction.

New forms of procurement and contracts must require investment and ownership in the quality process from inception to completion by the actual procuring client.

How to achieve quality

How much focus do we really put on delivering a quality product? How many man hours are expended on quality inspections on site compared to the man hours constructing?

Unfortunately, we currently only have anecdotal evidence to suggest not very many but, if you focus on quality through design, construction, inspection and testing, huge improvements can be made.

Our recommendation is that the ‘chassis’ of projects, e.g. foundations, drainage, frame, envelope, etc., are regulated by clear guidance and objective-driven outputs, and that the inspection procedures and approvals are regulated by legislation.

Consider again the dynamic where 95% of people on a construction site are self-employed and only for a limited time with very probably no employment contract or job description – it brings into perspective why the quality and testing regimes on site must be even more robust than in a controlled manufacturing environment.

The full report can be downloaded from The Housing Forum website.

Find out more: http://www.housingforum.org.uk/resources/building-homes-better—the-quality-challenge


The Development Partnership Forum looks at growth opportunities for UK housing development in 2018

The Housing Forum has created a Development Partnership Forum to build influence and promote collaboration within the residential sector.

This Forum brings together government and industry to share best practice and support new entrants into the housing market. It gives policy makers feedback on the issues they need to be aware of, making this a highly relevant initiative as the Government looks to accelerate and increase house building and to address issues of quality.

In January this year, the Forum met to look at future prospects for 2018, including the Government’s Industrial Strategy, the draft New London Plan and opportunities for small builders.

The key outcomes from the meeting included the need for collaboration and partnership working, stating that through partnerships and learning from one another the industry will be able to rise to the challenge of increasing the supply of new homes. The sector needs to recognise and promote the contribution that all the different players can make and any level.

While central and local government have provided policies and funding to help SME house builders, these need to be designed and delivered in a way that they can be easily accessed and utilised.

AMCM Group CEO Jon Wardle, who is a member of the Forum, specifically looked at growth opportunities for the smaller builder. Being an SME, AMCM Group’s focus is on building quality homes, and Jon commented: “There are opportunities as well as challenges for small builders. For example, the opportunity for housing associations and developers bid as part of joint ventures and turnkey contracts. SMEs need to consider how they can stand out in the normal contracting process and add a premium. They can be part of the solution if used correctly because there are opportunities to collaborate with the majority of new housing on smaller schemes (schemes of 500 units and more account for only 14% of development).

“SMEs want to work quickly, especially on small sites yet such sites often need high initial investment to make them suitable for housing. This is a risky business for SMEs and the industry needs to find a better way to support them (patient investors). Off-site manufacture is being used by some SMEs and there is likely to be some off-site solution on every site but this requires different skills and investment.”

It was also discussed that the residential sector needs to take the opportunities awarded to it by using all the funding the Government has made available and to increase the supply of new homes. To do this, the sector needs to work collaboratively together to increase its influence with Government to benefit from the Sector Deal and funding.

With land requirements doubling in most London Boroughs, there is a concern that the draft New London Plan will restrict use of low grade industrial land for housing – this land can be used for more innovative ways of providing homes.

Elliot Kemp, Principal Strategic Planner on the London Plan Team for the Greater London Authority said: “The Mayor’s seven strategies have been integrated into the draft London Plan that will be adopted in the Autumn 2019 after the current consultation and its examination in public (autumn 2018). There has been a new approach to the Plan, with clearer policies that can be directly adopted by the boroughs so that they can focus on delivery.

“Good growth is the Plan’s guiding principle, growth that will be sustainable. There is clear spatial detail identifying where development and infrastructure is needed, as well as a new assessment of housing need.”

The Forum will continue to meet throughout 2018 to progress on the areas identified for growth and offer support to Government initiatives.

Further details on the outcomes from the meetings can be found on The Housing Forum website.

Find out more: http://www.housingforum.org.uk/our-events/development-partnership-forum/development-partnership-forum


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