Building Better signs first offsite firms to new £600m e-purchasing system

by Sion Geschwindt
Building Better signs first offsite firms to new £600m e-purchasing system

Building Better, an alliance of 29 housing associations and councils supported by the National Housing Federation (NHF), has appointed six manufacturers to its new dynamic purchasing system (DPS) for MMC category 2 construction systems.

Future Built, LoCal Homes, Project Etopia, Roe Timberframe, Sigmat, and Starship Homes are the first firms selected by Procurement for Housing and Building Better to provide 2D panelised systems, assembled on-site. 

The DPS is worth £600m over four years and will run in parallel with Building Better’s first MMC framework, which launched in July 2021 and covers category 1 volumetric 3D systems.

The alliance aims to give members access to a range of different MMC solutions so they can find the right one for their site.

A DPS is an electronic tool used to purchase goods and services – it’s similar to a framework but has the functionality to add new suppliers at any time and is 100% electronic.

Building Better took the decision to create a DPS, not a fixed framework, so panelised manufacturers can join at any point during the term of the DPS.

By setting up a DPS, social housing providers can access the latest solutions and suppliers as they come to market, Building Better says.

Over 215,000 homes are managed by the 29 housing associations and local authorities that make up Building Better.

Since the launch of its volumetric framework in 2021, alliance members have put nearly 40 schemes through it, getting costs on over 900 MMC homes.

With the launch of its DPS, Building Better says it will be better able to help the social housing sector to produce around 5,000 MMC properties by 2026.

Manufacturers wanting to join Building Better’s DPS must first be certified by the Buildoffsite Property Assurance Scheme (BOPAS) or assessed by building warranty provider the National House Building Council (NHBC) and their products must aim to meet the Future Homes Standard. 

Once they have passed an additional selection procedure, looking at their commercial, social, and sustainability credentials, manufacturers can bid for opportunities via a tender call-off. 

This process has been streamlined for social housing providers, too, with members receiving a tender template pack and hands-on support from Procurement for Housing.

‘Normalise offsite’

Trina Chakravarti, project director of Building Better, said: “The emerging nature of this part of the MMC marketplace means that social housing organisations have, to date, been wary of category 2.

“Some told us they were anxious about committing to a panelised manufacturer, not knowing if the company or even this form of MMC would be around in four years.

“Because of this, we knew a different procurement approach was needed, one that would still provide high standards and ease of access like our category 1 framework, but a solution that didn’t ‘clip the wings’ of manufacturers operating in such a fluid environment.”

John Bellamy, category manager for Construction and Sustainability at Procurement for Housing (PfH), said: “A major benefit of setting up a DPS is the learning.

“As an alliance, we’ll be able to grow our understanding of what housing organisations actually require with category 2 and the technical solutions they gravitate to.

“Creating a framework now would have meant guessing the answers.

“But a DPS allows us to gather data and feedback on products and manufacturers, educating ourselves, and helping us to normalise offsite and use it at scale across the sector.”

Image: Building Better cat 2 panelised MMC. Credit Sigmat


Read next: Dutch architect uses world’s oldest social housing to design ‘housing of future’

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