Grenfell tragedy a wake-up call for housing world

The fire will mean firms will have to use more technical staff
The fire will mean firms will have to use more technical staff
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Most of us will remember waking up on Wednesday 14 June to news of a major fire in progress at Grenfell Tower, North Kensington, London.

As a housing and bidding professional who spent half of his childhood living in a social housing tower block, I realised immediately that this needed to be a huge wake-up call to the housing world and its suppliers.

What do I think may change in the months and years ahead for both bidding and contract management within the social housing world?

Technical Evaluation: Greater attention should be given to the technical elements at all stages This will be a challenge for the many organisations who have cut back on professional technical staff.

Health & Safety: When this goes wrong, the consequences are deadly, so the priority given to this needs to be higher. Health and Safety is often evaluated at the pre-qualification stage; expect it to loom larger within the tender stage and be weighted accordingly.

Price vs Technical/Quality Evaluation: Of course clients need to get value for money with their limited resources. However, even since Grenfell, I have seen an opportunity for electric rewiring of social housing come to market with an 80 per cent pricing, 20 per cent quality/technical evaluation.

Balance of Risk: Often clients seek to transfer most of the risk on to the contractor. However, Grenfell showed that when things go wrong, tenants go back to the ultimate property owner, in this case the council. It will be most illuminating to see where the public inquiry places the various liabilities.

Bespoke Tender Questions: Many of the tender questions we see are generic and could apply anywhere. So, lack of time at the buyer end to create project specific tender questions can lead to suppliers replicating generic responses. Time spent at specification and bid response stages drilling into the detail will produce a much more satisfactory result for all concerned.

Resident Involvement: In some housing organisations, residents are involved in interviewing contractors and evaluating bids. This is likely to increase as the people who must live with the consequences of the decisions make their voices heard.

Regulatory Oversight: The reach of the regulator has diminished in recent years. This may change in the coming years with housing organisations being asked to contribute directly towards the costs of increased regulation.

Informed and Proactive Leadership: The Lakenhal House fire in 2009 in London was an horrific harbinger of what can happen when health and safety is not prioritised in high rise dwellings. Since then, many industry experts have consistently warned that fire safety in many tower blocks was inadequate and that another disaster was only a matter of time.

In summary, Grenfell has important lessons for all those involved in social housing contracts - housing organisations and their procurement teams; council committees and housing association boards; main contractors, sub-contractors and suppliers; housing regulators and. crucially, the residents themselves who need to make sure that their voices are listened to.

Andrew Morrison MSc FCIH is managing director of Lothians-based AM Bid Services Ltd