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The research aimed to understand the early messages emerging from year one of the Innovative Housing Programme.

The Innovative Housing Programme (IHP) was introduced to support the development of innovative approaches to delivering housing in Wales.

Main findings

Navigating the planning process

Participants identified early dialogue, both with local authority planning teams and with residents as important.

Constructing buildings with traditional appearances may reduce concerns amongst local residents and planners. Local planning authorities may need additional learning to be ready for applications for more unconventional forms of development.

Planning committees appeared sympathetic to the aims of the programme. Having IHP status may therefore be helpful for schemes navigating the planning process.

Construction Challenges

IHP funding gave developers confidence and financial ‘safety nets’ to adopt more innovative approaches than they otherwise would have.

Many developers experienced difficulties with supply chains for specialist materials and identifying construction partners and contractors with appropriate experience. However eleven of the eighteen Year One schemes appointed locally based construction partners.

Workforce challenges

Many of the workforce problems aren’t specific to the IHP.  They relate to the need for the design and construction industries to rapidly upskill.

The size and value of the IHP schemes plus the innovation were felt to limit interest from construction partners and contractors. It is possible that the developments were too large for SMEs but not big enough for large companies to consider.

Apprenticeships and partnerships with local colleges provided specialist labour for some schemes and also supported local employment aims.

How does the IHP compare to typical build programmes?

Respondents felt that the IHP schemes had cost more to build than traditional methods. Unpredictable costs of innovative schemes underline the importance of IHP funding in incentivising developers to proceed with such schemes.

Some developers were considering setting higher rent levels for more energy efficient housing. Reasons given included higher build costs and because such properties theoretically offer lower energy bills.

Some respondents believed that significantly reduced energy costs over the life cycle of homes could fundamentally shift housing association finances. Life-cycle costs may potentially be of equal importance to upfront capital costs when considering the viability of innovative housing.

Likely defect levels associated with innovative methods were a concern for developers- however several respondents identified fewer defects to date than they would expect from traditional construction (attributed to the greater quality control possible through off-site manufacture).

Challenges reported around mastering a new order to the build process, delays around agreeing contracts with construction partners, and securing statutory connections.

Respondents struggled to be specific about waste levels but generally reported good outcomes in comparison to traditional builds.

Residents’ proficiency in operating their new homes in the post occupancy period and when properties were re-let was a concern. Many developers planned a period of intensive resident engagement and support in the post-occupancy period.

Low energy designs did not always result in the SAP rating necessary to achieve an EPC A rating. In some cases it was necessary to add in additional renewable energy sources to achieve EPC A.

Progress against Outcomes

In most cases it was too early to comment about outcomes in terms of energy performance and tenants’ experiences.

Most schemes experienced some level of delays during the planning and construction phases. Delays were related to appointing suitable contractors, navigating planning challenges, and sourcing materials.

Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) were considered a faster approach than traditional methods. However, progress was still hampered by challenges around securing utility connections and the weather.

Developers and their construction partners found it difficult to accurately cost schemes they had no prior experience of delivering. Construction partners could all see scope for efficiencies in the construction process in future.

Participation in Year One of the IHP appears to have shifted attitudes towards innovative approaches amongst both developers and construction partners.


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Rhian Davies

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