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SFHA Development Conference: speaker interview with Mark Turley and Gillian Campbell

Ahead of our Development Conference, taking place on 15 March at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh, we asked our speakers some questions about what they'll be discussing during their session, their thoughts on delivering 110,000 affordable homes by 2032, and what they think housing will look like by 2040. Mark Turley, Partnership Manger at Construction Scotland Innovation Centre and Scottish Government, and Gillian Campbell, of Gillian Campbell Consulting, shared their thoughts with us. 

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What are you discussing at the conference and why is this an important issue?

Mark: We will be explaining the work being done to build more affordable homes using off-site construction. Construction is one of the least productive sectors in the UK economy. Most of us would admit that traditional housebuilding approaches haven’t changed much in years while other sectors have embraced new technology to dramatically improve efficiency and, in many cases, to improve customer choice. Examples being communications, media, electronics and cars. We need to modernise how we deliver affordable homes so that we stop treating every development like it is our first – we can streamline the process to avoid abortive work and disputes and reduce waste. We can make housebuilding an attractive and inclusive industry by moving to a manufacturing approach – in a factory instead of a muddy field – and we can dramatically improve quality so that homes are delivered quicker and to higher standards. And all of this will take us a big step towards achieving net zero.

Gillian: We will be talking about modernising the way we deliver affordable homes in Scotland – an approach that can support the sector to get tenants into high-quality, affordable, energy efficient homes more quickly. 

Through making greater use of off-site construction, and building up local supply chains, we have an opportunity to create an industry that works for the whole of Scotland – not only providing quality homes in great places but creating attractive job and training opportunities and helping us to reach net zero.

What does Scotland's social housing sector need to be able to achieve the Scottish Government's target of 110,000 affordable homes by 2032?

Mark: We need to work better together as a sector – as 100-plus clients all doing the same thing (delivering new affordable homes) and working as a team to get the best deal we can from the market. By aggregating demand, we can begin to turn around what has always been a seller’s market into a buyer’s market where clients set the agenda and industry responds. That will get us the products we need and maximise the bang for our bucks.

So let’s start to value what unites us instead of behaving like 100-plus organisations with different agendas. If we start to collaborate in this way, we will become much more efficient and that will help offset the higher unit costs of net zero, deliver the homes more quickly and get the quality right for customers. Would you buy a new car with a snagging list?

Gillian: We need to learn from what works and focus on what matters to the people who will be living in the homes we build. There is a huge amount of knowledge and expertise within the sector – and beyond. We need to get better at sharing and pooling that knowledge, building on that experience and working together to strengthen the voice (and buying power) of the sector. 

What do you think our homes will look like by 2040?

Mark: I am less worried about what the homes will look like and much more worried about what our communities will look like. For all the talk about place, many developments – especially private ones – are in the middle of nowhere, with few, if any, amenities and poor transport links. You couldn’t live in most of them without a car (or two). For all the criticism of new houses 'all looking the same', people pay huge prices for them and report being very satisfied with them. We know what layouts work, what space is required and what performance is needed to support zero emissions. Let’s stop re-inventing the wheel on bespoke housing designs for the 100-plus organisations that deliver affordable homes and pay more attention to the spaces between them.  

Gillian: I’m not sure what they’ll look like – I’m sure there will be a huge diversity of styles, dependent on location, age, house type etc. But what they’ll feel like is warm, comfortable and affordable to live in. They will require minimal heating, because they are so well designed and energy efficient. They will be genuinely flexible, with decent storage and workspaces, with access to attractive, safe and healthy outdoor space. They will be constructed using locally-sourced materials, as far as is possible, and will be designed with circularity principles at the core. 

Secure your place

Time is running out to book your place for our Development Conference, which is taking place next Tuesday (15 March) at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh. 

If you are planning on attending the conference, please book one of our remaining places as soon as possible, via the SFHA Live! section of our website, to avoid disappointment.  

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