Further underlining the strength of its offering, United Living, provider of infrastructure, housing, and property services, recently secured a significant contract with L&Q that will see it carrying out a wide range of works for the leading housing association over the next 15 years.
“It’s a very exciting development for us, particularly as L&Q are such a prestigious client,” explains Todd Peut, Operations Manager. “We’ve already got a well-developed pre-existing relationship with L&Q and carried out a pilot scheme with them last year, which went incredibly well. We obviously still had to go through the usual tendering process and were delighted to be successful in securing the contract.”
Given the length of the agreement, United Living will be covering a considerable amount of work throughout its duration in a number of different areas. “The contract can effectively be broken down into four clearly identifiable programmes of works,” adds Mr Peut, who works within the Property Services Pillar within United Living. “There’s the internal programme, which predominately involves kitchen and bathroom upgrades to the resident’s homes. We then have an external stream, which is predominately an external enveloping programme, with a detailed programme developed in conjunction with L&Q.
“The third stream includes the Mechanical and Electrical, plus a complex works package. This incorporates a wide range of works such as lift replacements, lateral mains upgrades, plantroom refurbishments and ad-hoc projects that are delivered through the partnership agreement to provide cost certainty to the client.
“The fourth and final stream is what we call SHDF, which is effectively retrofit, where we go out with our partners, such as CoreLogic UK, and carry out assessments to identify properties that do not meet EPC-rated band C. Once measures are identified, we would work with our design team to finalise the works package and complete the installs. This could be anything from loft installation and electrical upgrades, through to EWI and IWI. It could be windows or roof upgrades or more complex work, such as heat source pumps etc. That’s the kind of work that we’ll be looking after during the 15-year programme. The aim is to quickly progress the programme to the point where we’re delivering works in value of £20m or £30m for L&Q annually.”
In-line with this objective, United Living has conducted some recruitment, both internally and externally, to better support the programme. “Initially we had some people already identified within the business that were well suited to the L&Q work that we could bring onboard, such as Contract Managers, Quantity Surveyors staff, Community Engagement Managers, Resident Liaison Officers and Pre-Construction Managers,” says Mr Peut. “We’ve probably had to recruit for between 10 and 15 new management roles. We’ve also had to secure other people outside of that management-wise and have created upwards of 120 trades through our supply chain. The benefit is that we’ve been able to recruit in the local area, which means people are going to care about the properties even more, which is fantastic.
“Many of the suppliers that we are using on this contract have already been working for United Living for quite some time, between five and ten years in many cases, so there’s an established link there. Having such a strong base locally within the Essex region has been brilliant for us.
“Of course, there have been new relationships formed, on the SHDF side particularly, and we’re looking forward to further developing the partnership with CoreLogic. It’s great to build on existing relationships, but we’re also always looking for more too.”
As befits a company that sets itself such high standards, United Living looks for similar attributes in its own suppliers and partners. “In terms of the criteria that we look for in our partners, trustworthiness is the main one. Having a true partnering ethos is also extremely important too. Because we’re partners with L&Q, we want to bring people onboard that are keen to come on the journey with us as well.
“Having a much longer-term plan helps to generate higher levels of ‘buy-in’ and commitment. This is how we’re selling it to people. I like to work with contractors that have a positive, ‘can do’ attitude, can think outside the box and are willing to help resolve any problems. I’m delighted to say that all of our contractors are like that and are in it for the long haul. It helps provide commercial and operational benefits for everyone. The contractors have the peace of mind and stability to bring on apprentices and develop their staff knowing the work is there potentially for the next 15 years. That’s the point of these contracts, to put the conditions in place for the longer term so you have the confidence to build long-lasting teams. The number of apprenticeships that will be created will be phenomenal.”
While the L&Q contract will pave the way for long-term development, at the present time the market is very buoyant too. “From a United Living perspective there’s a significant number of opportunities out there and we are actively pursuing and bidding for a lot of them,” says Mr Peut. “The market’s there, it’s just about finding the people to carry out the roles and deliver the work. We’re incredibly positive and with our growing reputation within the industry and we’re in an increasingly better position to make the most of the opportunities that become available. People are at the heart of what we do, and we look to create a lasting positive legacy in the communities in which we operate, delivering social and local economic value and improving lives. One of the biggest ways we secure comprehensive social and economic benefits for the community is through sourcing local suppliers and staff during a project.
“While opportunities are definitely there, on the flipside there are challenges to overcome, particularly from a recruitment perspective. It’s a very employee-driven market, so we have to offer something that other companies can’t. As I mentioned, for us it’s all about longevity across all of our partnerships, not just L&Q. The fact that we have that longevity, especially as we’re strong advocates of promoting from within, really helps to give us an edge.
“In terms of other hurdles, Brexit coupled with Covid certainly didn’t help the situation. A high volume of trades have left. The entire construction industry therefore needs to find a way to improve the skill set of those working within the sector and market the construction industry as a viable career pathway instead of university. Thankfully there are robust plans in place across the board to get the industry to where it needs to be.
“In the meantime, we are committed to looking after our existing staff and making United Living a company where people want to come to work and can fully reach their career potential. We have an incredible senior leadership team, from the directors all the way through to the RLOs. They all have the same positive ethos, and this culture will pave the way for our future development as a business.”
With all the ingredients for future success, United Living is well set to keep progressing. “For the next 12 months we want to build further on our existing relationship with L&Q. Their team’s absolutely fantastic and we’re keen to embed ourselves into their processes at all levels. At the end of the day, we all want to just crack on and move forward with the work programme at a greater speed in order to provide greater benefits for the residents, which is ultimately what it’s all about.”
It is this philosophy that has proven integral to United Living’s success and is sure to not only play a key role in the ongoing development of the contract with L&Q but also the company’s future prospects generally.