Francesca Buck, Business Development Manager at Clancy Docwra, explains how multi-utility provision can help housebuilders unlock value and efficiency in a complex marketplace.
For many housebuilders, securing the infrastructure required to deliver essential utilities services – gas, electricity, water and telecoms connections – can cause delays to construction. A survey by the National Federation of Builders revealed that more than 70% of housebuilders have experienced problems in securing connections to utilities. While unfortunate, this is hardly a surprise. Ongoing deregulation and changing compliance requirements have made the utilities sector a complex marketplace, but for housebuilders, multi-utility provision offers a way of demystifying the connections process.
Contracting one provider to install all utilities on a site can simplify things greatly, speeding up installation while driving down costs. This can offer a better deal, but multi-utility is a multi-buy that also brings significant added value beyond cost savings. At a basic level, dealing with a single utilities contractor means a more streamlined process.
Strict regulations mandate that water infrastructure must be laid deepest onsite, with gas and electricity infrastructure above. The inflexibility of these layers could pose a co-ordination issue for housebuilders attempting to liaise with three separate utilities contractors, whereas dealing with one provider can circumvent unnecessary delays due to scheduling issues.
Whether a housebuilder is bringing forward a site of 40 or 400 units, proposals can change rapidly onsite, and the larger the proposed development the more planning pressures can affect plans. Everything from a new road layout to changing the orientation of a house affects the utilities installation process, increasing the efficiency value of liaising with a single, multi-utility contractor. With the Government actively encouraging disruption in the housing market and urging smaller developers to increase their activities, now is the time for SMEs to consider how multi-utility might help them to effectively scale-up their operations.
Single point of contact
Having a single point of contact is particularly valuable due to the complex quoting process and the mechanics of approvals, which is a dialogue rather than a straightforward application. Since the beginnings of the competitive market in 2000, all utilities networks are ultimately adopted and operated by either Distribution Network Operators (DNOs), Independent Distribution Network Operators (IDNOs) or Independent Gas Transporters (IGTs). These companies have specific requirements for approvals and clients’ own ideas don’t always meet the necessary standard. This might entail the need for anything from the repositioning of gas meters to the rerouting of a service pipe. At Clancy Docwra, our clients trust us to intelligently manage these conversations and ensure that approvals are granted with minimal interruptions to the build programme.
“Now is the time for SMEs to consider how multi-utility might help them to effectively scale-up their operations.”
While complex, for housebuilders who benefit from expert advice and understand the marketplace, the adoption process offers an opportunity to unlock cost savings. Unlike DNOs, independent operators will provide developers with an asset value – a one-off payment upon adoption of the site’s utilities infrastructure that can be discounted off the cost of construction. As ongoing deregulation and new entrants into the marketplace provoke more fierce competition amongst independent utilities providers, housebuilders should be aware of the value to be unlocked by considering utilities from the outset.
Housebuilders need trusted advice to guide them through the complex connections process, and in a rapidly evolving market of competition and regulatory changes, the clarity offered by a single, expert voice cannot be overvalued.