NHMF Contractor Forum focuses on sustainability

Despite the last minute change of ‘venue’ to Zoom, last week’s Contractor Forum meeting was well attended. The main topic of the meeting was sustainability, and we had some great guests talking to us about the opportunities for contractor businesses, as well as the next steps we as contractors need to take in supporting our clients to reach Net Zero and energy efficiency targets. We had a compliance update covering the landscape facing social landlords with building safety and new fire safety regulations, and how early contractor involvement is going to be essential in meeting the new targets. We also had an update on NHMF frameworx and the opportunities available there through the new contracts currently being issued.


The big focus on energy across the board led to much conversation about the uncertainty of the financial market. As a sector, we’re facing massive challenges not just for our own businesses but for our clients and their customers too with multiple contributing factors and numerous and varied challenges. It was therefore welcomed that a new Contractor Forum Working Group is being formed to look at the impact of the economic crisis we face.


With the rise in living costs and the impact this is having on residents, energy saving is a huge focus for the market. We’re facing challenges that most of us have never faced before, that are affecting us personally and professionally in multiple and in many cases, very worrying ways. The crisis will worsen and will have a far-reaching impact on the sector, affecting contractors, clients and most importantly their residents. Short term action is being taken and we’re seeing information sharing, like how saving 1 degree on heating can save 10% on heating bills. But, there is also a big focus on a delivering a fabric-first approach to property management/ maintenance that longer term, will reduce the energy demand of the UK’s housing stock.

Wave 2.1

Ben Bright from Turner & Townsend is leading the Southwest to support access to Wave 2.1 of the Decarbonisation Fund and presented some excellent advice on how the supply chain (contractors) can support clients with successful bids to achieve long term aspirations when it comes to meeting Net Zero targets.

The aim of the £800m BEIS-led fund is to level out property energy ratings to EPC C as standard, creating warm and efficient homes, reduce carbon and ultimately, develop the retrofit sector. This strategic direction for the industry and huge investment from Government has previously been lacking and is welcomed. Although applications have been delayed, 18th November is a fixed deadline and Turner & Townsend is actively focused on engagement and supporting quality applications, using lessons learned from the previous Wave for future success. Better defined/ scoped projects supported with technical capability and knowledge are being sought as BEIS look to make data-based decisions, where proper consideration has been made to gaining the best value for money and property-positive impact. This approach will also lead to better data, knowledge, skills and experience to deliver a fabric-first retrofit for the future.

Delivery is going to be a major element in the success of this scheme. Timescales are tight and Ben recommends collaboration in this area and better procurement will be the way to ensuring positive outcomes. Turner & Townsend have a wealth of information and resources available and the Social Housing Retrofit Accelerator (BEIS-funded support service helping social housing providers across England successfully bid) website is also available with a suite of materials, toolkits, masterclasses/ webinars and podcasts.

Fleet management

Another area of energy-saving solutions and advice came from Jay Taylor of Northgate Vehicle Solutions. Vehicle fleets are the biggest carbon emitter for a business and the challenges in effective fleet management are huge. As well as limited supply thanks to Covid and the global supply chain crisis, meeting targets to lower carbon emissions is difficult. Jay delivered an interactive session highlighting some of the options of how this can be achieved, like better management, alternative fuels, new technology, and of course, the introduction of Electric Vehicles to your fleet. Through better management using vehicle tracking and telematics, replacing old for new vehicles, right-sizing vehicles and reducing spare vehicles from your fleet are all positive steps to reduce carbon that can be taken without moving to EV. These short terms measures could reduce your carbon footprint by up to 119 Tonnes, the equivalent of planting 3689 trees.

Considering introducing EV to fleets may be a way off for many and solutions are not available for many vehicles often used in our sector, but no matter what stage of the procurement process you are at, Jay’s closing advise was to address the problem now. By gathering information, engaging drivers early and exploring the infrastructure and supply chain partners to make it happen allows for informed decisions to be made and cements change for the better.

Regulation changes

Andrew Burke, Adviser to the NHMF, explained there are a myriad regulation changes ahead and energy is a big consideration in this area too. The new Building Safety Act has now been published and although how this is going to be rolled out and enforced is still unclear, it’s likely that social landlords will need to act sooner rather than later and if contractors get to grips with what the regulations entail, there is a big opportunity to support clients in the early stages of planning.

Following the Grenfell review, there is a renewed focus on Fire Safety in the market too, with regulation changes requiring, for example, the appointment of a Responsible Person by social landlords. Again, there is opportunity for contractors to support, particularly with information gathering.

Other regulations coming into play are the Electrical safety, Heat Networks Market Framework, and the Social Housing Regulation Bill. The Best Practice area of the NHMF website is constantly updated and is huge resource of information to help contractors to consider their role in supporting clients.

Contractor Forum Working Group

Led by United Living’s Paul Maghie, a new working group is being formed to support the NHMF Contractors Forum play a leading role in navigating the current climate. The aim is to help understand how we can collectively mitigate and/ or overcome the challenges we as a sector are facing; how contractors, consultants and clients can work more closely together to achieve better outcomes, and define what good procurement looks like for all stakeholders. If you would like to be a part of the working group, please email dawn.rush@m3h.co.uk

If you'd like to join future meetings as a guest, you're more than welcome to try us out. Contact imogen.bowen@m3h.co.uk to find out more.


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