Learning from the Glasgow experience

The annual NHMF Study Tour provides a valuable opportunity for members to share knowledge with colleagues from across the social housing sector and approach common challenges from a fresh perspective. In 2018 we visited Glasgow to look at the history of social housing in the city, and to explore some of the innovative solutions being adopted by local housing providers.

Our tour began at the Lighthouse, the first commission completed by renowned Scottish architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and a fitting location to officially welcome delegates.

Bill Byfield, Savills Public Sector Director, kicked off the tour by providing an introduction to the history of social housing in Glasgow. Between 1840 to 1930 sandstone tenements were built on a massive scale in Glasgow to house its rapidly expanding population. These tenements were usually overcrowded with inadequate access to sanitation and refuse removal. Poor construction also meant that the state of these properties gradually declined over the years. From the 1950s onward, many of these tenements were demolished and replaced with new properties. Residents were initially impressed with the new properties, but over time issues related to the design of these homes meant they were no better than the tenements they were built to replace. The tenements that remain today are not necessarily the best quality, but they are now recognised for their historical significance for Glasgow and have been refurbished. This experience set the theme for the study tour and demonstrates how important it is to think of the life cycle costs of homes when they are designed, as future generations are left with maintaining these buildings.

Building houses is easy, maintaining them is hard

In the afternoon, the group headed to our first site visit via Glasgow’s underground, known locally as the ‘Clockwork Orange’ to visit Wheatley Group’s Ibroxholm Oval. Eric Conquer led us on an informative tour of one of their refurbished multi-storey buildings to demonstrate how the organisation has implemented fire safety measures in buildings ranging from 8 to 26 storeys high over a range of stock, including six RSLs, two care partners, a repair division and two commercial subsidiaries.

This was followed by a visit to Elderpark Housing Association led by Chief Executive, Gary Dalziel. Formed in 1975, Elderpark HA was one of the first community-based housing associations in Scotland and currently manages just under 1,300 homes. Gary explained that around 70% of their stock is tenement flats and roughly 4,000 repairs are carried out every year. The group were given a guided tour of one of their refurbished tenement buildings led by Gary and his team who talked us through the extensive improvement programme, including replacing all the kitchens and modernising communal areas including lobbies and stairwells to a high standard. 

Roughly 400 to 500 candidates apply every year... with approximately 90-95% of apprentices completing their training, the programme is clearly a positive step, from which many lessons can be learned.

On day two, we returned to the Lighthouse for a joint NHMF committee and contractor forum meeting chaired by Karl Linder. This was a useful opportunity to review preparations for the annual NHMF Conference before joining Eric Conquer for our final stop at the City Building training academy. The group were keen to gain a first-hand look at this innovative construction craft apprenticeship programme which has taken a very inclusive approach to recruitment. No formal qualifications are required to be accepted, although prospective apprentices are tested for literacy, numeracy and practical skills, with a separate ‘talent taster’ scheme on offer for candidates who may not yet have achieved the necessary skill level.

Roughly 400 to 500 candidates apply every year and the programme is only open to Glasgow residents. City Building try to ensure there is an even spread of recruitment geographically and through all the trades and with approximately 90-95% of apprentices completing their training, the programme is clearly a positive step, from which many lessons can be learned.

In addition to the programme, City Building also assist with a wide range of local community projects and offer 250 work experience placements a year to Glasgow schools, plus the opportunity for Wheatley Group tenants to gain experience in partnership with local charity, MCR Pathways.

The group were very inspired to see so many apprentices demonstrating their new-found skills in the workshop and felt the scheme was an encouraging example of how social housing providers have taken a proactive stance in supporting the wider community, as well as finding practical solutions to bring new recruits into the sector.

Our visit was a timely reminder of Bill Byfield’s opening remarks to the study tour: “Building houses is easy, maintaining them is hard”.

NHMF Study Tour 2019

Join us in Freiburg for the next NHMF Study Tour on 9-11 October. The tour will include two days of visits, experiences, fellowship and knowledge exchange to understand the participative processes that shaped the city and observe sustainable building practices in action.

The study tour is attended by members of the NHMF Committee, and the NHMF Contractor Forum and is open to Directors or Senior Managers working in the maintenance or asset management areas of the UK and Republic of Ireland Social Housing.

For information and details on how to book, please visit nhmf.co.uk/studytour

NHMF training days 2019

The NHMF offers a series of one-day training courses to support both clients and contractors. The sessions are designed for property services directors, asset management directors and team members directly involved in procuring or managing contracts under the M3NHF Schedule of Rates and associated modules. They are particularly valuable if clients and their contractors attend together.

For information and bookings, please visit nhmf.co.uk/training

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