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A year with Clarion: Pt 1 - Transforming the Housing Industry

Peter Shovlin

Setting the Scene

The housing industry today faces growing criticism for its dated processes and failure to adopt innovation. As our towns and cities grow, the housing industry needs to take responsibility for its impact across society, the economy, and the environment.

Government estimates from 2020 suggest that the number of new homes required in England to match demand is approximately 345,000 a year. To accommodate these needs, the industry will have to prioritise efficient land use, as well as adapting current practices to support and serve communities properly by making buildings affordable, safe, and sustainable.

It is clear that any future change in the housing industry needs to be systemic - championing technology and innovation in the same ways that other industries have already done in order to ensure transparency, responsibility and accountability across building lifecycles.

Introduction to Clarion

Over the last year matterlab have been working in partnership with Clarion Housing Group, the UK’s largest social landlord. Over 350,000 people currently call a Clarion home their home. With a heritage that dates back over 100 years, the organisation provides good quality and affordable housing for people priced out of the property market.

Currently producing around 2000 new homes each year across the UK, over the next five years, Clarion has ambitions to further establish its role as a market leading developer and social landlord.

As an asset owner, Clarion recognise that nearly 70% of capital spent relates to the ongoing maintenance of existing built assets. In their role as a social landlord, where they are responsible for the maintenance of over 126,000 homes, it is crucial that a whole life strategy in development and management of assets is adopted. This journey begins at the land and project acquisition stage, working with both internal and external teams to refine structured data inputs, collaborative processes and production definition.

Implementation of digitally enabled design, construction and operation process within strategies, will therefore become a key enabler to deliver on Clarion’s aspirations. This is where we come in.

Forging a Partnership

By investing in the future, Clarion is focusing on a digital evolution which will improve their ability to deliver more affordable homes, enhanced maintenance strategies, and ultimately the sustainable communities which allow residents to grow and prosper.

Our approach at matterlab is to keep things simple, communicate effectively and create scalable solutions that are supported in implementation. Our first year of the Clarion journey was focused around establishing structured foundations that would allow Clarion to grow and achieve future aspirations.

Stakeholder engagement was key, whilst maintaining a balance in development which prioritised delivery via our agile approach. Translating aspirations into actionable objectives was the starting point, as we collaboratively outlined four digital goals which would provide the framework and focus to our development.

Our Digital Goals were:

1. To facilitate the efficient construction, operation and handover of the project, with automated extraction of data for structured asset management.
2. To lay digital foundations and enable modern methods of construction (MMC) at Clarion Housing Group.
3. To drive visibility and transparency of information delivery and project progress for all stakeholders.
4. To improve delivery of design, driving quality and reduce wasteful activities through improved validation of design and data.

With goals defined and an approach in delivery agreed, our next step was to further outline the roadmap ahead. We focused on communication as a means to build momentum across the organisation.

The series of articles we will be posting in the coming weeks will further expand on the thinking behind, and strategy for, Clarion’s drive to implement digital technologies, told by the voices of those that have delivered these goals. We want to celebrate success, share lessons learnt, observe the nuances of engagement during a pandemic and provide some insight into what makes us tick at matterlab.

For me, it has been hugely rewarding working with Clarion on this project. If I can have a positive impact in making thousands of homes per year safer for families to live in, which are produced with less waste and with sustainability in mind, and with the certainty that enables delivery of good quality design, I’ll have done my job.

Let us know your thoughts and keep an eye out for further developments along the way.

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