Q&A with Conan McKinley
This month, we caught up with Conan McKinley, director of asset & building safety for Your Housing Group, to ask him about his role and the challenges facing asset managers working in the housing sector today.
Based across the North West, Your Housing Group is one of the UK’s largest housing providers, managing more than 28,000 homes ranging from affordable social housing through to shared ownership and private rent.
CPC: Can you tell me a little about your role as director of asset & building safety?
CM: My role covers everything to do with asset management, from building safety, through to decarbonisation and planned investment. I lead a team of seven heads of service who look after investment delivery, compliance, building safety, asset strategy, commercial management, operational improvement and facilities management.
CPC: It sounds like an extensive remit – how do the pieces fit together?
CM: The new Building Safety Bill is putting demands on organisations from the inside out. We need to look at our data, our systems, our processes – how information is managed and held. All data will need to be stored electronically including copies of floorplans; types of fire doors and what condition they are in; balconies and materials used for their construction; materials used for cladding and insulation; fire maintenance schedules and inspection regimes. From this data, we produce a building safety case.
Data also plays a key part in managing all of our current assets. We undertake thorough surveys of estate conditions including external areas, balconies, electrical and plumbing systems etc. All this data is collated in our asset management database and from there we produce our asset management plans with input from the wider organisation.
Meanwhile, our operational improvement team has a remit for driving improvements right across the department. We’ve implemented a timetable of improvements, for example to address the problems of damp and mould. We have a disrepair team in place and have a zero-tolerance attitude to damp and mould.
In our experience, there is usually an underlying reason for the problem – for example the fan doesn’t work; the gutter leaks; insufficient insulation etc. We take the approach that we fix the reason – we don’t blame the tenants. We’ve been recognised by the National Housing Federation for this proactive and tenant-centric approach.
Finally, our facilities management team looks after all our office buildings and depots. We have divested many of our buildings due to people making a shift to homeworking – but we’ve retained our main office as a central meeting and collaboration space.
CPC: What are the biggest challenges of your role at the moment?
CM: The biggest challenge is how complex asset management has become. In the last three or four years – with both the Building Safety Bill and the focus on decarbonisation – the industry has had very little time to catch up.
In this time, my role has grown considerably in both volume and complexity. So many new roles have been created in the built environment, it’s essential that we either train or recruit people with the right skills to meet the new demands on the sector.
For example, to meet the demands of the government’s decarbonisation agenda, a key target is for all social housing to be EPC C rated or better by 2030. Finding the right people with the right skills and experience to carry out the work is therefore essential.
Moreover, everyone needs to get up to speed at the same time. As housing providers, we are all looking to find the right people to fill our roles so it’s a very competitive environment from an employer / customer perspective. With additional services and demands on the organisation – there is of course also a financial implication for all housing associations that comes from the new legislation and government mandates.
CPC: How do you usually procure construction and maintenance services?
CM: We use a blended approach for procurement. We employ a small procurement team in-house and do some of our procurement direct.
We also use procurement frameworks and we have relationships in place with both CPC and ProcurePlus. As we only have a small team in-house, we find it’s often faster to work with a framework provider.
CPC: What’s your next project priority?
CM: We have just heard that we won funding for the first wave of the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund – which is fantastic news.
The project will deliver better energy efficiency and lower fuel bills for tenants in almost 400 of our properties across Greater Manchester. The timescales are tight, with all work to be completed by March 2023, so we’ll be getting started on that project straight away.
At CPC – we have a broad selection of frameworks to help you procure for all your building safety, decarbonisation and maintenance needs. CPC make it easy for clients to find the right high-quality suppliers at the best possible prices. Get in touch to find out how we can help.